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.