QCA AGM MAY 20 2017
QCA’s next AGM will be held on Saturday. 20th of May
Venue: Friends House, Euston, London
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QCA AGM MAY 21 2016
At QCA AGM this year our guest speaker was Geoff Tansey, researcher, broadcaster and recipient of the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust ‘Visionaries for a Just and Peaceful World’ award; author of The Food System: a Guide (with Tony Worsley); co-editor of The Future Control of Food – A Guide to International Negotiations and Rules on Intellectual Property, Biodiversity and Food Security and of The Meat Business: Devouring a Hungry Planet. He has worked on various agricultural development projects in countries including Turkey, Albania, Mongolia and Kazakhstan and is currently an honorary research fellow in the Department of Peace studies at Bradford University and honorary visiting fellow at the Centre for Rural Economy at Newcastle University.
|Geoff spoke of food as a lens through which we can look at the world.|
Currently the food system is dysfunctional as many people are micronutrient deficient and undernourished whilst 300 million people are obese; we are seeing a massive loss of biodiversity, including agricultural biodiversity; it impoverishes whole populations and entails appalling cruelty to animals. But this is not a static, unchangeable state of affairs: the food system has a history (witness, the food we eat today is in many respects unrecognisable from the food our ancestors ate only a few generations ago) and therein lies the hope for and possibility of change.
It’s within our power to create and maintain a fair, healthy, nutritious and sustainable food system for everyone, in which we can all thrive and interact.
The food system consists of many parts. Suppliers of inputs such as seeds, chemical fertilizers, etc.; also farmers, farm workers, traders, process manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers, caterers, consumers/citizens; the government, policy makers and lobbyists. The World Trade Organisation (WTO) makes laws. Global advertising pushes consumption. The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) patents seeds, and even animal traits now have patents. Within this complex, power – and enormous wealth – is increasingly becoming concentrated in in the hands fewer and fewer players, driven above all by the rising preeminence of Intellectual Property.
We need also to look at the ethical principles at play in the food systems, particularly in relation to factory farming. Animals are fast disappearing from the fields and are having their autonomy restricted with disregard for their well-being. Sentient beings have become units of production: a means of turning grain and soya into something more expensive (a key dynamic in profit-maximisation, which must, after all, contend with the basic fact that there are real limits on how much food any one of us can consume and thus a natural ceiling on how much ‘food product’ can be sold to us). We see a loss of animal diversity with just a few companies owning the genetic rights. We see more disease patterns resulting in greater use of antibiotics used in livestock farming. People are being de-sensitised to the welfare of animals that are predominately being referred to only as units. Global advertising pushes meat consumption as a means of raising one’s cultural status – wealthy people eat meat. This is unsustainable. Current levels of greenhouse gases emitting from animals trapped in intensive farming is contributing to climate destabilisation, an unintended consequence and a real threat to our world. We need to take a different approach. Two differing, primary narratives for sustainability are the narrative of Productivity, which looks in part to geo-engineering and the ‘techno fix’; another centres on ‘Systems of Enough’, urging sufficiency, biological and ecological diversity, smaller farms and equity.
Further information on this subject can be found at The Food Systems Academy which is an open education resource for transforming our food system. www.foodsystemsacademy.org.uk .
For more information on Geoff and his work, please visit http://tansey.org.uk
Report: Judith Wilkings, QCA Member & AIA Member
QCA AGM MAY 9 2015
At this year’s AGM our speaker was Dominic Dyer, CEO of the Badger Trust, who talked about the Government’s highly controversial plan to roll out the badger cull across the country. Those against the cull say the impact of badgers spreading bTB is extremely small compared to the impact of cattle passing the disease to other cattle through poor farming practices, flawed testing for the disease, and mass cattle movements around the country.
Dominic’s background working in the Ministry of Agriculture means he has a broad understanding of both farming and politics. He explained that continuing retail demand for low prices on dairy and meat products has led farmers to try to supplement incomes by selling cows, necessitating this movement. Transmission of bTB from cow to cow accounts for 95 per cent of contagion while badgers account for just five percent.
Dominic reminded us how the recent cull was not only cruel, with badgers taking between five and 15 minutes to die and that the shooting, killing, and terrifying of these animals served to disperse them around the countryside but that the cull cost the taxpayer £6,500 per badger to implement.
Cruelty to badgers has increased by 100 per cent in the past five years. Dominic is not alone in believing that the demonising, indeed scapegoating of badgers, turning them into ‘culprits’ for the spread of disease, has served to increase persecution by badger baiters, hunt masters and those who engage in random acts of cruelty. The increase in badger baiting also means more abuse of dogs, the trading of lurchers and pitbulls on the internet and a surge in illegal gambling.
Dominic spoke about the broad range of other animal issues he is concerned with through Care for the Wild, now merged with Born Free.
These included the continued use of wild animals in UK circuses which allows foreign circuses to bring their wild animals into the UK. The Taji dolphin slaughter Japan where dolphins are also captured alive to feed the demand for ‘performing’ dolphins, created by marine parks, and the shocking ‘canned’ hunting business in South Africa where today there are 150 lion breeding farms providing lions to shoot. Dominic also explained how huge profits made from illegal poaching of elephants and rhinos for ivory and horn is now linked with funding some of Africa’s most notorious armed groups. Our speaker suggested that diverting a percentage of foreign aid to help animals and illegal poaching could combat terrorism.
While all this may all sound gloomy, the greatly encouraging side is the growth of animal rights groups across the globe and our magnificent secular campaigning organisations in the UK, run by professionals with exceptional knowledge and experience in their fields. QCA has forged good links with many of these organisations and individual members can work with them to help non-human animals.
The Badger Trust: http://www.badgertrust.org.uk/
Report: Ann Johnson
QCA AGM MAY 10 2014
Report on talk given by HILARY JONES, Ethics Director of LUSH.
Hilary started by telling us about a ‘hedgehog moment’ when she was 11 years old and found a hedgehog running frantically around with its head stuck in a yoghurt pot. Following that, the caretaker at her school gave her some Animal Aid literature – and that got her started on a life of working for animals.
She told us that Mark Constantine (who with his wife Mo is the founder of Lush) trained as a trichologist – which of course is concerned with the health of hair and scalp. At first he worked in a hairdressers, but he became very concerned about what was in the various products used on the customers. Hilary said that Mark was a ‘sandal-wearing hippy!’, and when he couldn’t find out what was in the products he became very disillusioned. Consequently he and a friend started up a small business (in Poole, where Lush still has its headquarters), where Mark made all the products, ensuring that they were all completely safe and healthy. His great hatred has always been hair-dye (said Hilary with a chuckle, pointing to her own bright orange hair!)
One day Mark saw an advertisement from someone just starting her own small business. It was Anita Roddick, and soon afterwards Mark was making all the products for the Body Shop. The work increased; Mo, Mark’s wife, gave up her job as a legal secretary, to help, and gradually they employed others, becoming a multi-million pound business and continuing to supply the Body Shop. However, Anita would regularly reject a lot of their inventions, as not being suitable for Body Shop needs. This was frustrating, and so eventually they started their own brand, which became LUSH.
Lush’s policy was not just about using only safe, healthy ingredients, but also about taking care of the environment. They showed that it was possible to do business in an ethical way. Consequently they have always been especially keen on making as many of their products as possible solid (shampoos, soaps, bubble baths, etc.), which of course eliminates the need for packaging. Mark also insisted that they should never use any ingredients which had been tested on animals (as a teenager he had been inspired by talks by Lady Dowding!). Furthermore, he felt that it was not enough just to be ethical oneself, one should also try to change things for the better – and so Lush is also a campaigning organisation, especially against animal testing.
Things now became complicated. In March 2013 a ban within the EU on the sale of cosmetics tested on animals took effect. But that year REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of CHemicals, started in 2006) was finally implemented, and this makes it compulsory to test on animals all chemical substances imported into the EU in quantities of one tonne or more. (It has been estimated that 54 million vertebrate animals would be used under REACH.)
Lush realised that science needs to invest in alternatives to animal testing, and so the Company gives a prize of a quarter of a million pounds a year to people who have achieved major breakthroughs in this field. And Hilary stressed that Lush is constantly campaigning in their shops against all animal abuse. They currently have 830 stores in 51 countries – and Lush continues to prove that it is possible to be both a business and ethical.
There were some interesting comments and questions. Among other things, we learned that Lush has developed their own testing policy, which is much more stringent than any existing one. We also heard that REACH lays down rules concerning which tests must be used; so if a non-animal test is available, they will in theory say this should be used. However, they do not update their records, which leads to a horrific number of animals dying unnecessarily.
André Menache told us about a group in Switzerland who have developed a non-animal method of testing for the toxicity of inhalation products – so Hilary suggested that they be recommended for a Lush science prize!
~ Sonia Waddell.
QCA AGM, 11 May 2013
Address by Dr. Dan Lyons, CEO of the Centre for Animals and Social Justice (CASJ) on:
Understanding and overcoming obstacles to animal protection.
University of Sheffield
How can we make a real difference for animals? Representing animal interests in politics
Slide 2. Introduction
When we consider this fundamental topic, we can take one of two approaches.
Option 1 is to start with an ideal theory based on analytical ethics – such as Tom Regan’s theory of animal rights – and then publish and agitate on that basis.
Option 2 involves starting with an examination of the current real-world situation and accept that we have to come to terms with how power is exercised. So we need to understand factors such as:
- public attitudes to animals,
- the relationship between moral beliefs and action,
- current human impacts on animal wellbeing
- and – critically – political institutions and relationships that influence those impacts through public policy . By this I mean the laws, govt departments and agencies, and the various relationships and loyalties that govt policy-makers have with different lobby groups.
Having understood the reality of our situation, we can then look for opportunities to advance animal representation within political systems.
Both approaches are essential. However, I would venture that animal protection supporters and advocates have over-emphasised the ideal theory approach. The problem with this it’s likely to hinder the achievement of practical advances for animal protection. This is because it overestimates human capacity for rational, ethical behaviour and ignores the significant constraints of entrenched social institutions, such as corporate domination of economics and politics, and deeply-held assumptions about the allegedly superior moral worth of humans relative to other animals.
However, this is not necessarily a counsel of despair, because as I will show, there is a huge democratic deficit between an ‘animal welfare’ social consensus in the UK and the reality of how animals are represented and impacted upon through public policy. The gap represents a serious tension in current practices which, if tackled, would result in historically unprecedented advances for animal protection.
In a sense, what I’m trying to do here is to provide a map of social reality, because we can’t move in any particular direction unless we know the terrain we’re crossing. That’s why ideal theory while necessary, can never be sufficient if we want to actually realise those ideals to any extent.
3. Animal-related belief systems
First aspect of social reality we’ll look at is social attitudes, including the attitudes implicit in actual practice. My research provides empirical evidence to support Orlans’ classification of animal-related policy belief systems. Using animal research policy as an example, these are the relevant value systems:
The ‘Animal Use’ ideology displays the following key characteristics:
- animal welfare is secondary to scientific/commercial goals
- animal experimentation is considered generally ‘necessary’ and hence permissible in the pursuit of knowledge without immediate or foreseeable human benefit
- opposition to utilitarian scrutiny of experimentation proposals
- support for professional self-regulation and opposition to lay interference in animal experimentation – in effect they see their treatment of animals as a private matter for them, and hence they implicitly deny that animals are within the sphere of ethics & social justice.
The ‘Animal Welfare’ belief system, manifest in the activities of RSPCA, comprises the following positions:
- animal welfare should be given significant weight and can outweigh scientific and commercial goals
- proposals for harmful uses of animals should be subject to independent utilitarian analysis
- painful animal experimentation only considered ‘necessary’ and hence permissible to satisfy urgent and pressing human needs
- lay control required to ensure consideration of the wider public – and animals’ – interests.
The third major belief system relevant to this policy area is ‘Animal Rights’, and this encompasses the underlying philosophical position of the major anti-vivisection lobby groups:
- all sentient animals have inherent value and share humans’ interest in avoiding suffering
- this therefore entails the abolition of harmful animal experimentation
- scepticism regarding the marginal utility of animal experimentation
It is interesting to note that in their policy interactions, animal rights groups tend to adopt the animal welfare position, which indicates how policy agendas are ideologically circumscribed and certain positions entirely excluded from meaningful consideration, as a result of entrenched power structures.
4. More Practical Ethics
In order to uncover groups’ real belief systems, we also need to understand that social reality is significantly ‘path dependent’ and that social environment, generally, has a major impact on human beings’ understanding of right and wrong, and our behaviour. History progresses as a result of ongoing dynamic interactions between, on the one hand, ideal ethics – and, on the other – entrenched patterns of behaviour with all their historical baggage.
To paraphrase Marx:
Human beings make history, but not in circumstances of their own choosing.
So a crucial ethical test is whether people take responsibility for the creation of circumstances where the perceived need to cause harm to animals doesn’t arise. To borrow the principle coined by the political philosopher Marcel Wissenburg – ‘Ought’ implies ‘make it so’. Applied to this field, it raises the question of whether those engaged in biomedical research are genuinely committed to trying to create conditions where their perceived need to experiment on animals disappears?
I’m touching here on essential epistemological and ontological issues which are crucial for our understanding of how the world works and hence how we might be able to change it. I’ll come back to this.
5. Animal experimentation – public opinion
So let’s look at public opinion on animal experimentation. Most polls are very crude and often biased. The most useful poll I’ve seen was conducted in 1999 by New Scientist magazine. It is still flawed but their survey questions reflected the formal requirement for a cost-benefit assessment of animal research projects under both the existing UK law (ASPA) and the new Directive which will come into force later this year. So they asked whether people approved of each of these 9 different types of animal research:
Many of these questions are biased in favour of animal experiments in a factually inaccurate way. No time to go into that, but worth bearing in mind as it will actually strengthen our overall case…
[And they asked about this list in six different circumstances of severity:
- Mice ARE NOT subjected to pain, illness or surgery
- Mice ARE subjected to pain, illness or surgery
- Some of the mice may DIE
- Monkeys ARE NOT subjected to pain, illness or surgery
- Monkeys ARE subjected to pain, illness or surgery
- Some of the monkeys may DIE
First of all severity categories 1 and 4 are largely irrelevant as virtually all lab-based experiments on animals will involve the potential for pain, suffering or distress. A more interesting survey would have contrasted opinion on experiments involving mild, moderate and severe pain. Categories 3 and 6 are also pretty irrelevant as the vast majority of animals are killed at the end of the procedures, and it doesn’t distinguish between experiments where death is the endpoint – the most severe where animal are allowed to die as a result of the experimental intervention – or experiments that may be relatively mild but the animals is killed before they experience significant pain.]
We’ll focus on category 2: painful experiments on mice
So where do people draw the line?
To ensure that a new drug to cure leukaemia in children is safe and effective
- To develop a new drug to cure leukaemia in children
- To ensure that a new vaccine against the virus that causes AIDS is safe and effective
- To develop a new vaccine against the virus that causes AIDS
- To ensure a new painkilling drug is safe and effective
- To develop a new painkilling drug
- To enable scientists to study how the sense of hearing works
- To test whether a garden insecticide will be harmful to people
- To test whether an ingredient for use in cosmetics will be harmful to people
So as we go down the list, a majority of people turn against painful experiments on mice between objective 4 and 5:
… if the purpose is to test a painkilling drug, despite the inaccurate use of the term ‘ensure’.
Clearly, the cut-off point is somewhere around the “applied research into ‘life-threatening’ disease” point. This is reflected in other surveys, normally commissioned by animal research interests.
For example in 2008, a poll asked whether “Animal experimentation for medical research purposes should only be conducted for life-threatening diseases”.
53% agreed with the statement:
With just 27% disagreeing.
7. Animal experimentation in practice #1
How does public opinion compare with the reality of the UK Government’s policy-making, such as how it operates the cost-benefit assessment, and whether it has any strategies to reduce and eliminate animal experimentation?
It is difficult to give a precise comparison with current practice because the published statistics are too vague. However, working from our list of experimental objectives in Slide 5, the UK Government currently licenses all of these types of experiments down to number 8, and even used to licence cosmetics tests on animals – despite the requirement for a cost-benefit assessment – until 1998.
8. Animal experimentation in practice #2
Looking at some other facts regarding current UK animal research policy…
Between 2008 and 2010, all 9908 animal research applications were approved.
The only primary data in this area – relating to the critical Imutran xenotransplantation case study – indicates severity is significantly underrated and projected benefits grossly exaggerated. The Govt’s assessment of research applications is in reality a rubber-stamping exercise.
The Government’s transposition of Directive 2010/63/EU maintains this type of approach: Let’s look first at the overarching policy aims which then structure the network and outcomes:
- Anecdotally, reports from EU meetings suggest that the UK Government sees transposition as an opportunity to deregulate even further, and the Government’s actions so far seem consistent with that. For example, a Minister has told Parliament they would prefer to rely on good practice rather than legislative control.
The Government has no explicit aim to reduce numbers or animal suffering. Animal welfare has not been directly incorporated into the Impact Assessment and animals are not considered as a directly affected party. (Reflects the reality of how the cost-benefit assessment has operated in practice) [Relatedly, Govt has effectively reneged on Coalition pledge in May 2010 to reduce animal experiments (took over a year to explain what they would do, turns out business as usual – no targets or any new initiatives).]
- The Government is also aiming to avoid any cessation to existing research. Continues Govt position that this policy area is to be ‘demand-led’.
Out of the 2.66 million mice experimented on in the UK in 2010, 826,000 were sacrificed in fundamental research and a further 1.47 million were genetically modified or bred with harmful genetic mutations.
If a representative public panel were given the job of deciding on animal research applications, then it’s reasonable to estimate that over 2 million animals – probably a majority – would be saved – a revolutionary step forward in this area.
9. Understanding and closing the democratic deficit
How do we explain this democratic deficit and, hence, develop possible strategies to tackle it?
I’m use policy network analysis, which is an orthodox tool of political science. It taking the interactions between group and state actors in a particular policy sector as its starting point in trying to explain policy processes (Marsh and Smith, 2000: 4).
At the heart of this model is the conception of: ‘networks as structures of resource dependency’ (Marsh, 1998a: 11). The notion of ‘Resource’ here has quite a broad definition including types such as:
- legal/authority (both formal and discretionary),
- political legitimacy (manifest in access to policy-makers, public opinion),
- information (especially control over its generation and distribution), and
- organisational (resources that enable a group to engage in direct policy-related action).
The key insight at the heart of the policy networks analysis is that policy actors deploy, withhold and exchange resources in order to influence decisions during the policy process. Not just a question of what your resources are, but how skilfully they are put to use. This is a key driver of political evolution.
Identifying the resources and belief systems of relevant groups over time helps us to understand how power affects the network and hence the policy outcomes. The relative resources and hence political power of groups depends considerably on the wider political environment.
10. The animal research policy network
What are the critical features of the animal research policy network? Centred in a unit of the Home Office, it is a deeply entrenched ‘policy community’ type of network, with an elitist power structure dominated by animal use interests, and effectively excluding animal welfare – and has been since 1882.
Animal welfare is neglected by government because animal protection advocates lack the required resources to gain genuine access to the network, relative to animal research interests.
The influence of a group’s resources depends on whether they contribute to the overall policy goals of the network. However because the network is dominated by an animal use ideology, the knowledge and arguments of animal protection advocates fall on barren ground because animal welfare is just not a significant goal of the network. In fact, as a potentially significant ‘cost’ in the cost-benefit assessment of projects, it is seen as a threat to the pursuit of scientific, medical and commercial interests.
11. Group Resources
Examining groups’ resources can help illuminate the obstacles and opportunities for animal protection.
There are two stages in assessing political resources. 1st there’s the initial crude quantification stage. 2nd we have to look at look at those resources in their wider context.
At a crude level, it’s a fact of life that economic and professional groups will tend to have far greater political resources than cause groups. They have far more financial muscle and they virtually monopolise relevant technical expertise. The vast majority of biomedical research is conducted by companies and institutions who have an animal use ideology and are supportive of animal experimentation – we’re talking about virtually the entire pharmaceutical industry, all the Government research councils. For example, during the passage of the new Directive through parliament, industry were able to hugely outgun animal welfare interests with the amount of lobbyists and schmoozing they were able to carry out.
They also enjoy an elite social status which facilitates very close relationships with Government and media, and allows them to run highly effective PR campaigns, and hence manipulate the opinions both of the public and policy-makers. Their power – dominating the policy network since 1882 – has meant that previous laws and the way they are interpreted are also heavily biased in their favour.
However, where they have some vulnerability is in the realm of public opinion. We’ve seen there’s a significant gap between public opinion and the practice of animal experimentation. This means that animal welfare interests have a potential resource in public opinion that, if deployed skilfully, could help achieve positive change.
The problem is that the policy network is structured in such a way to block the impact of public opinion, largely through secrecy and biased decision-making processes that exclude public accountability.
Therefore, the most likely source of network change and hence improved animal protection is through a change in external, structural factors. So let’s look at those now:
12. Structural changes to advance animal protection
Taking the broader institutional framework of Govt first. – Currently, animal researchers’ resources are externally enhanced through the support they receive from other sponsoring government departments, such as the Department of Health who sponsor the UK pharmaceutical industry, and the Dept of Business, Innovation and Skills incorporating the Research Councils who effectively represent academic and commercial animal researchers.
But there is no executive department or agency in Government acting as a voice for animals or setting any animal protection agenda within the heart of Government. So this highlights the need to explore the task of the institutional representation of animals within the Government structure.
In the UK wild animals are in a particularly vulnerable position as there isn’t even an advisory group on their welfare, animals on farms, in labs, and companion animals.
Looking at the legal/political status of animals…
One of the reasons for the skewed operation of the cost-benefit assessment is that in practice it is a highly discretionary judgement – taken in secret – by bodies with no serious regard for animal welfare. And one cause of this is that there are no overarching laws or policies that could guarantee a significant level of consideration for animal welfare, which means animal welfare is almost always sacrificed when it conflicts with animal use interests. In other words, animals need to be granted some overarching legal/political status in order for public policy to be less dominated by raw power rather than ethics and democratic accountability.
Impact Assessments are an existing universal policy instrument, directed by the Treasury, which are meant to ensure that legitimate interests are considered when policy options are considered. In the UK, the Government is legally required to assess a policy’s impacts on factors such as the environment and gender equality. However, despite Government rhetoric that indifference to animal pain should have no place in a civilised society, such indifference is, in fact, institutionalised through the exclusion of animal welfare as a direct factor in IAs, as seen in both the Animal Research Directive and badger culling policy process. The fact that the Government seeks to mislead people on this issue further confirms this is an area of potential progress.
Earlier I spoke about path dependency and the constraints of social environment on individuals, and identified that a commitment to strategies for change is a really important measure of ethical commitment.
Now, seven years ago, the APC – the national advisory committee on animal research – attempted to put the issue of targets for reducing animal experimentation on the agenda, stating it was a necessary corollary of genuine concern for animal welfare. The Home Office rejected this out of hand, insisting that policy must be driven by the activities of the research community rather than ethical consideration for animal welfare. The absence of a meaningful strategy with targets to improve animal welfare within any part of Government is both a symptom and a cause of the lack of regard for animal welfare in public policy, contrary to public opinion. As part of this process, there is probably both a need and an opportunity to establish an ongoing animal welfare audit so we know where we are and can monitor progress. I say an ‘opportunity’ because advisory expert groups have suggested this to Government, so we might have something to work on there.
Although I’ve focussed on the UK situation, these reform themes are broadly applicable to other nation states and at an international level such as the EU.
In conclusion: we are faced with a set of interlocking phenomena that serve to stabilise political systems which view animal welfare as at best a peripheral secondary policy goal. But I have identified some of the key features of this system and these will account for the focus of the CASJ’s research and advocacy as we seek to bring animals into the realm of social justice and enhance democracy in UK politics and beyond. We hope that academics and advocacy groups can collaborate with us on a project that has the potential to make a historic difference to nonhuman animals.
Address by Andre Menache to QCA AGM May 12 2012
Considering what man is doing to Nature, one wonders what hope there can be for future generations of people or animals. The Earth is in the midst of the sixth mass extinction of both plants and animals, with nearly 50 percent of all species disappearing, according to scientists. Against the backdrop of this sad news, I was asked to present some positive news at this Annual General Meeting, and so I started looking for examples of acts of human kindness towards the animal kingdom. The problem I have now is that there are so many of them, I could not possibly fit them all into this lecture and so I have selected a few of the most moving examples, to share with you today.
UK good news
- In February of this year, in Essex, a man wearing just his pants crawled across a frozen river to rescue his dog. The man apparently fell into the River Stour but managed to climb out with the dog. An Essex Fire Service spokesman described the incident as a “foolish act of bravery”.
- The European Union laying hens directive gave EU member states 12 years to switch standard battery cages to ‘enriched’ cages, which are larger and contain litter, perches and a scratching post. Most British egg producers appear to be compliant with the new EU-wide law, which came into effect on January 1, 2012, compared with some other European countries that have not fulfilled their legal obligation.
- March 2012. All ferry companies and all but two airlines have stopped importing animals destined for research laboratories in the UK. Every year some 15,000 animals – mostly mice – are shipped in from abroad. They account for 1% of the animals used in UK laboratories. Macaque monkeys imported from China into the UK are subjected to travel times of up to 58 hours, with little or no food or water.
- Badger cull stopped in Wales. A controversial cull of badgers in Wales aimed at cutting TB in cattle will no longer go ahead. Instead, it will be replaced by a multimillion-pound programme to vaccinate dairy herds. However, considering the animal suffering associated with industrial milk production and the negative human health aspects of drinking cows’ milk, it would make even more sense for people to simply stop drinking cow’s milk altogether.
- Anne, the UK’s oldest and last remaining circus elephant, is free at last. She was brought to the UK from Sri Lanka in the 1950s and worked in the circus for virtually her entire life. The hysteria began when footage, taken by a hidden camera installed by the campaign group Animal Defenders International, showed a worker beating Anne at the winter home of the Bobby Roberts Super Circus. Anne is now enjoying a well earned retirement.
International good news
- In Los Angeles, a dog saves a girl from a burning house. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles presented the dog named Diamond with their 29th annual National Hero Dog award. The article was entitled: “Brave in fire but ‘scared of cats’: Beloved pit bull who saved girl from house inferno wins National Hero Dog Award”
- Off the shore of the Brazilian town of Arraial do Cabo, 30 dolphins suddenly swam in with the surf and got stranded in the sandy shallows. A dramatic video shows humans rushing to help their fellow mammals, pushing and pulling hard to help the animals reach deeper water. All of the dolphins were saved and swam out to sea. This unusual event to me represents a hugely symbolic message, where humankind is presented with the chance to repay Nature, and where the dolphins on this occasion are thankfully helped back into the sea. We can only speculate as to the cause of the dolphins’ unusual behaviour. Could it have been due to the effects of man-made electromagnetic interference (e.g. submarine activity) with the dolphins’ sonar?
- Truck full of dogs crammed into tiny cages and bound for Chinese restaurants is intercepted by animal lovers. This is certainly not the first time that stories like this one are coming out of China and beginning to thaw the stereotype of what Westerners think about Chinese attitudes to animal welfare. There is a growing awareness about animal welfare issues, with recent campaigns to stop bile bear farming, eating dog meat and shark’s fin soup. The group Animals Asia is at the forefront of many of these campaigns.
- Laboratory monkeys reprieved in Holland. The Dutch science institute TNO decided to hand over 67 macaque monkeys no longer required for medical research to a primate sanctuary, rather than to kill them. This probably represents the largest voluntary release of monkeys from a laboratory to a sanctuary.
- An end to animal circuses in Bolivia. In a series of dramatic seizures all over Bolivia, Animal Defenders International (UK), working with the Bolivian authorities, successfully removed wild animals, including 24 lions, from eight different circuses spread across Bolivia.
- Canadian seal cull. The European Union has effectively banned the importation of seal products – now joined by the Russian Federation. This is in addition to a worldwide decrease in the demand of seal products. Hopefully these steps will allow seal populations to recover from the effects of the seal industry. The effects of global warming must also be considered since this adversely affects the seals.
- I would like to end my lecture with an example of empathy within the animal kingdom. Perhaps there is a lesson here for the human kingdom.
In the December 2011 issue of Science, an observational study of rats found them to be surprisingly selfless, consistently breaking friends out of cages—even if freeing other rats meant having to share coveted chocolate. It seems that empathy and self-sacrifice have a greater evolutionary legacy than anyone expected. Many animals have evolved instincts to help others, even at a cost to themselves, and we humans would like to think that we have inherited these same instincts. The scientists conclude that helping an individual in distress is part of our biology and not something that develops or doesn’t develop because of culture.
I should mention that I am against animal experiments and this study could just as easily have been done by observing a colony of rats in the wild instead of in the laboratory. However, I included it because the rats teach us a moral lesson.