Response to a ‘welfare’ survey about hens used for eggs

Here’s an excellent argument, calm and reasonable, about why ‘animal welfare’ is not the issue; using animals at all as a resource is. I highly recommend this site: https://theresanelephantintheroomblog.wordpress.com

There's an Elephant in the Room blog

Joy at Eden Farmed Animal Sanctuary Joy, rescued from an ‘Enriched’ Cage

Missy, rescued from a 'Free Range' facility Missy, rescued from a ‘Free Range’ facility

There’s an Elephant in the Room was recently contacted by a veterinary student with a request to complete a survey on the ‘welfare’ of hens in the egg industry. I did not complete it and have declined to promote it. Sharing my response.

‘Thank you for contacting me. I have viewed your survey and felt that my reason for not completing or promoting it warranted an explanation.

As a vegan activist, I got full marks in all categories. This emphasises that I am all too well aware of the facts surrounding the conditions in which humanity’s victims are exploited but these are not the reason why I am vegan and neither are they the reason why I promote veganism.

‘Welfare’ is a word that is much-overused by the exploitation industries and by those who promote and support them…

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a rant against speciesism

This is a guest blog, in fact a reblog, from my vegan cyber-friend David Ashton, who on his ‘Snowbranches‘ Buddhist blog writes mostly about living with compassion.

~~~

Mindful Blindness: A Rant Against Speciesism

Every time,
A twinge of sadness:
The meat department

Warning! This is a rant.

As you may have noticed, I love you all dearly. The last thing I want to do is cause you pain. Because this is a rant, I’m not taking aim at anyone in particular, but if you stand too close, you may get thwacked, I may hit a nerve, or even step on your beliefs. No hard feelings if you bail out at any time.

You could think of this as an address to the jury on behalf of a group of sentient beings facing the death penalty that can’t speak for themselves.

I’ve been a vegetarian for the past six years, and in total, about 15 of my 62 years, but have only been phasing eggs and dairy out of my diet for the past six months or so [as at 2011].

I am grateful to Peter Singer’s classic book Animal Liberation for helping to crystallize my thoughts on the subject. I have drawn freely from his ideas.

Speciesism, like cannibalism, slavery, religious persecution, racism and sexism, is the imposing of the will of a powerful group upon a weaker group – in this case, by humans upon other sentient species. We take it so much for granted that it often goes unnoticed. But it’s everywhere – not just on our dinner plates and covering our feet, but also at the rodeos, circuses, bullfights, hunting and fishing trips, the fur trade and clothing stores. Last but not least, the worst atrocities are hidden behind the walls of the factory farms and slaughterhouses.

The idea of animal liberation isn’t new. Plato and Pythagoras were vegetarians for ethical reasons. So was Leonardo Da Vinci. He would buy caged birds sold at the marketplace for food and then set them free. Edison and Einstein were another couple of smart guys that decided they didn’t need meat and stopped eating it.

The amount of suffering we inflict on animals is staggering. Of course, physical pain causes suffering – branding, de-horning, castrating, tail docking, de-beaking – all without anaesthetic.

But so does the psychological pain caused by frustrating the natural instincts to run, to root around, snuggle with a mother or an offspring, socialize normally, exercise and play. It’s not uncommon for pigs in factory farms to literally go insane, making endless repetitive movements and biting their own tails and their cage bars. Pigs are as intelligent and affectionate as dogs, but the idea of subjecting puppies to the same cruelty we bestow on pigs, and then killing and eating them, is unthinkable.

So why do we eat animals? What benefit can we possibly get that outweighs the suffering and killing?

I like the taste. You can make some really delicious veggie meals – avocados, ginger, oranges, roasted nuts, garlic – the combinations are endless. My dad used to say “hunger makes the best sauce”. I think eating with a glad heart makes things taste pretty good too.

They are dead already or I didn’t kill them. Every time you take a chicken home from the store, another chicken has to be killed to take its place on the shelf.  By eating them, we are causing their deaths. Like the starfish story posted over at Jomon’s lovely blog nothing to attain, every little bit of meat not eaten makes a difference.

I need my protein. True, but you can get it from plants.  Beans and grains provide all the essential amino acids our bodies require. End of story. If you don’t believe me (I’ve got a degree in nutritional biochemistry), ask the vegetarian Olympic athletes. If vegan Carl Lewis can win nine gold medals, surely I can drag my sorry ass to work and back without eating meat. The omega unsaturated fatty acids found in fish oil are abundant in flax seeds. The only thing lacking in a vegan diet is vitamin B12, which you can take as a supplement.

Our bodies are designed to eat meat – we have canine teeth.  True, but we are also designed to eat plants – we have molars.  Unlike other animals, we have the ability to choose our foods.  We tell our bodies what to eat, not the other way around. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

You are killing plants. As far as we know, plants don’t experience pain.  As Alan Watts said, “cows scream louder than carrots.” Besides, it takes about ten pounds of plants to produce one pound of beef.  So if you eat a pound of beef, ten pounds of plants are killed as well. Maybe in a perfect world, we will live on fruit and nuts and grains and no plants will be killed.

You may want to skip over the next paragraph. It’s a little unkind.

I eat meat mindfully. This one really gets me, and I’m sorry if I’m talking about you. Nothing personal, but I don’t care how many prayers you say, how many candles or sticks of incense you light, or how “in the moment” you are; and I don’t care what the Buddhist sutras say, or what the Buddha said – the animal on your plate was still killed, and another will be killed to take its place. Maybe the smells and bells and chanting will make you feel better or change your karma, but that’s not the point. If it is the point, then I’ve missed it. The same reasoning would justify the death penalty, killing in battle and all manner of atrocities. How can you be mindful and in the moment, and not hear the screams from the abbatoir?

I only eat meat from animals raised and killed compassionately. Good for you. I mean it. But if you go to all that trouble to eat something you don’t need, why not just stop?

What about eggs and dairy?  I’m finally 100% vegan – no eggs or dairy or honey, leather, wool or silk – but it took quite a while.

[This post originally read: Ouch. This is where I get hit by my own flailing. There is plenty of suffering associated with the milk and egg industry, but my diet is still only 95% vegan, for interpersonal reasons. You know the old saying, “take my advice – I’m not using it.” Besides, if they only allowed perfect people to rant, it would be awfully quiet.]

What can I do? Lots. Here are a few suggestions. Start by cutting dead critters out of your diet.  If you eat eggs, make sure they are free range. If you eat dairy, make sure the cheese doesn’t contain rennet and the yogurt doesn’t contain gelatin. Consider giving up leather and silk. Consider only using detergents, shampoos and cosmetics that are labelled ‘not tested on animals’. Learn about this stuff. Check out blogs like vegan.com and organizations like PETA. And of course, spread the word. If you’re looking for company, I posted a list of some famous veggies here.

Here’s something to consider: If all the land in North America now used to raise and feed animals were used to grow crops, it would produce enough food to eliminate hunger on the entire planet.
If you managed to read this to the end, my heart gives you a big hug! Thank you.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

If you’re up for it, watch the trailer for the award-winning documentary Earthlings, but be prepared to weep (seriously!).  You can watch the trailer and the entire movie here.

I also recommend seeing the documentary Forks over Knives about the health benefits of a plant-based diet and unrefined foods.

Spirituality & Veganism

Guest blog by Piers Warren

foraging-sheep-on-tideline

Veganism (as defined by The Vegan Society) is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.

But is there any connection between veganism and spirituality? At the start of this magazine, amongst the aims of GreenSpirit, you will see that GreenSpirit challenges us to ‘replace the anthropocentric worldview with an ecocentric one’ and to ‘walk ever more lightly on the Earth’. These challenges in particular tie in very clearly with vegan ideals.

To explore the advantages of veganism let me give you a run through of my own journey. As a young child I was drawn to animals and being outside in Nature. My earliest memories include the joy of finding slow worms under logs and building little ponds for tadpoles. From around the age of seven, I began growing my own veg (just radishes and lettuce to start with), which has grown into a passion that will stay with me my whole life.

Early on I also realised there was a lot of cruelty and exploitation in the world – elephants being massacred for their ivory, for example – and this realisation led to my later work in conservation. However, like most people in the UK, I was brought up eating meat and drinking milk and didn’t really make the connection between this and cruelty; it was just the way things were. Plus of course we were victims of marketing hype telling us how healthy milk was, for example, despite the incongruity that no other animal drinks another species’ milk, and none beyond weaning.

As my interest in animal welfare grew I became vegetarian as a young adult, and this decision was reinforced by a period living just down the lane from a large modern abattoir (the day-long screaming from the pigs stays with me to this day). I was also interested in self-sufficiency, yet my attempts at running a smallholding met the dilemmas of what to do with surplus male chicks, and the distress of removing young goat kids from their mother so that she could be milked for our own consumption.

The idea that veganism was the way to go to relieve my troubled conscience came to me, but it was years until I made the effort to embrace it fully. Like many vegetarians I struggled with doing without milk, cheese and eggs and managed to keep putting it to the back of my mind despite knowing that I would take the plunge one day.

Four things pushed me closer to the inevitable. Firstly, through organisations like VIVA! (see resources below), I learnt more about the cruelty involved in the dairy and egg industries: young calves torn away from their mothers at birth to be shot or sent to veal crates overseas; millions of day-old male chicks (useless for egg production) tossed live into a grinder, not to mention the awful conditions most laying birds are kept in, free-range or not, and so on. It is said that there is more cruelty in a glass of milk than a pound of steak. The animals we eat, from cattle to chickens to fish, are sentient beings with complex relationships with each other. Above all they want to avoid pain and not die. Research shows that even lobsters and crabs feel pain – being out of water for many hours before being boiled alive is not a good way to go.

Secondly, I learnt more about the personal health benefits of a cruelty-free diet. Vegans are less likely to suffer from all the major diseases: cancer, heart problems, diabetes, obesity etc. Increasingly the major health and dietetic organisations worldwide are encouraging people to eat less meat and more fruit and veg.

Thirdly, it became clear that the meat and dairy industries were major contributors to climate change (more than all the world’s transport systems put together). With my work in conservation, my horror at the dire projections as CO2 emissions continue to increase and my own desire to reduce my carbon footprint, it seemed hypocritical to put off turning vegan myself. It may feel easier to switch to a green energy supplier or use public transport more, but the greatest thing you can personally do to reduce climate change is to become vegan. The effects of the meat and dairy industries on the climate, and why they are covered up, are explored in the excellent film Cowspiracy* (see resources). There are many other ecological disasters associated with the drive for animal protein: for example, current projections are that by 2050 there will be no viable stocks of fish left in the oceans – worldwide.

And finally, as my own explorations into spirituality developed I kept coming back to the three words ‘respect for life’. I’ve never been anthropocentric, have never considered man above all other animals – we’ve just evolved differently. I’ve always loved all animals, been fascinated by them and the wonder of evolution, found great peace in Nature, and been awe-inspired by the beauty of wild places and creatures. I could not be a part of the wheel of destruction and cruelty purely through a liking for the taste of meat or cheese or milk. We are all connected. How can we feel spiritually at peace when we are causing so much death and cruelty every day (more than a billion animals are slaughtered for food every year in the UK alone)? There is nothing humane or ethical about slaughterhouses, no matter how modern they are. If you’re not sure what goes on then I urge you to watch the documentary Earthlings (see resources). It’s a harrowing experience, but then if just watching a film is traumatising, imagine what the reality is like. Not caring about the lives of sentient beings does not fit in with my idea of spirituality at all. There is nothing less valuable about the lives of pigs (which are more intelligent than dogs) than the pets we love and care for. I want to continue to explore and embrace compassion, empathy and reverence for all living beings.

It’s been interesting to meet other vegans who had never previously thought of spiritual aspects of their life, but since becoming vegan have explored and embraced spirituality, taken up other activities such as meditation and yoga and gained deeper personal peace.

Respect for life extends to other humans too, of course. A billion people worldwide do not have enough to eat, yet the amount of grain fed to cattle to provide the rich west with burgers could alleviate all hunger in the world. The plant food needed to produce just one pound of meat could feed 10 people for an entire day. It is unjust in the extreme.

There are already millions of vegans in the world, living healthy, cruelty-free lives, and more people are joining them all the time as the horrors of the meat and dairy industries are more exposed. It’s easier than ever to eat out as a vegan, and more alternatives (such as plant-based milks and cheeses) make it easy to cook at home without feeling like you’re missing out on anything. Veganism has boosted my enjoyment of food and cooking, and with the right variety of plant-based wholefoods it’s easy to get enough of the right nutrition, protein, vitamins and minerals in a more healthy form than you would get from animal products. Increasingly top athletes are turning to a vegan diet as its benefits for health and fitness are discovered.

Our digestive systems and metabolism have evolved to thrive on plant-based diets as increasing amounts of scientific research prove – such as The China Study (see resources). The reason people eat so much meat and dairy worldwide is simply because they like the taste – a shallow reason to fund cruelty and climate change at the expense of your own health.

The more I’ve learnt about veganism, and the longer I’ve practised it, the happier I’ve been with the decision to exclude cruelty to animals, as far as possible, from my life, reduce my carbon footprint and improve my health. Like many other vegans I have spoken to I only wish I’d started many years ago, and I know I will never turn back.

Here are some resources I’ve found really useful and supportive:

Organisations: The Vegan Society (www.vegansociety.com).

VIVA! (www.viva.org.uk) very active in campaigning against cruelty, plus excellent nutritional advice.

Magazine: Vegan Life (veganlifemag.com) lots of interesting articles and news items about vegan topics plus yummy recipes.

Books: World Peace Diet by Dr Will Tuttle (www.worldpeacediet.com) a best-selling, in-depth study of our food and culture with a spiritual thread throughout.

The China Study by Dr T. Colin Campbell which details the connection between nutrition and heart disease, diabetes and cancer. The report also examines the source of nutritional confusion produced by powerful lobbies, government entities and opportunistic scientists.

Films: Earthlings (www.nationearth.com/earthlings) a documentary about humankind’s total dependence on animals for economic purposes.

Cowspiracy (www.cowspiracy.com) a groundbreaking feature-length environmental documentary following filmmaker Kip Andersen as he uncovers the most destructive industry facing the planet today – and investigates why the world’s leading environmental organisations are too afraid to talk about it. *NB We have since heard that this film has had accusations of miscalculation levelled at it. I don’t think it undermines the subject matter, however.

Piers Warren is a conservationist, wildlife film-maker and author living in Norfolk. Website: www.wildeye.co.uk/piers-warren Email: piers@wildeye.co.uk

This article first appeared in Green Spirit magazine winter 2016. Thanks to Piers Warren and Ian Mowll, GS editor, for permission to reproduce it here.

Monbiot on veganism

That great iconoclast and environmental activist George Monbiot has flirted with veganism before. Then he went away from it.

Now he’s back and committed, with the strong environmental arguments to do with land use and over-population, in addition to the views we know he espouses of the effect of meat-eating on deforestation and climate change.

This is worth reading in its entirety, so I won’t paraphrase it here.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/aug/09/vegan-corrupt-food-system-meat-dairy#comment-80911943

‘No apologies’ (reblog)

FROM All-creatures http://www.all-creatures.org/

*

‘No apologies: Why ARA writers should not fear accusations of ‘Anthropomorphism!’ ‘Sentimentality!’

By Heidi Stephenson
June 2016

Man is not the pedestalled individual pictured by his imagination – a being glittering with prerogatives, and towering apart from and above all other beings. He is a pain-shunning, pleasure-seeking, death-dreading organism, differing in particulars, but not in kind, from the pain-shunning, pleasure-seeking, death-dreading organisms below and around him.
– (J. Howard Moore, The Universal Kinship)

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.
– (Mahatma Gandhi)

Animals have no voice in our wilfully deaf and conveniently anthropocentric, speciesist culture. Despite their clearly having consciousness (for those with eyes to see and ears to hear) and high levels of sapiency as well as sentiency, (which any of us who have had any sort of genuine relationship with a non-human being cannot fail to recognize,) their many languages are not understood by the majority of our fellow humans.

The failure is not on the animals’ part; it is on ours. Not even familiar canine, feline and equine languages, or methods of communication, are comprehended by the vast majority, after all these many aeons of loyal, devoted companionship, friendship and service. And this despite the fact that our fellow beings, (and especially those who are in close relationship with us) have more than managed to learn our own languages. They understand and interpret not only our many, different verbal requests, whether in French, Russian, Japanese, Arabic or Spanish, (all too frequently delivered as arrogant, dominionist commands, unfortunately) but also our physical body languages and our energetic, non-verbal (if you like, telepathic) communications. They read our emotions.

But, tragically, our determined, utilitarianist habits of exploitative thinking and living, deny them any right of response or recognition. We have reduced our highly evolved, non-human kin to mere “things,” to “live stock”, to “experimental subjects,” to “specimens,” – to commodities, to so many “its.” Our blatantly self-serving reductionism has deliberately negated their individuality, their conscious existence and experience, their personalities and their souls. We have disingenuously dismissed all their emotional, psychological and spiritual complexities (which we have barely even begun to fathom, having not wanted to look for so long,) to a simplistic, mechanized “instinct.”

Ours is the herd mentality.

How guilty and remorseful we would all feel if they spoke back to us in a language we couldn’t fail to understand, and we were actually forced to listen! (The Bible’s story about Balaam’s ass makes just this point. And the Divine is clearly on the poor ass’s side.)

It is here that the enlightened writer needs to come in. Our moral and our creative duty is to convey their point of view; to translate it for those who seem unable (or unwilling) to comprehend it otherwise.

The writer is by nature and disposition an empath. The writer is sensitive, observant and importantly able to engage with the experience of another. The writer’s heart is mostly wide open. (Very few respond to the writings of a closed heart. Clever, clever, mind-only writings simply don’t touch us. They pass through our own minds as just another load of ego-centric baloney; ‘intelligent’ perhaps, but abstract, cold. The world is not transformed by them in any way at all.) A good writer feels, sees fully, hears everything, actually dares to bear witness to what is, on all levels – and thus, thankfully, has a different, more developed lens of perception to share.

Writers who write about animals, about their fellow beings, care. We care very deeply. Our compassion and understanding, our capacity to connect, are highly developed. That is why we write. Because we cannot just remain silent. Having uncovered, having discovered, having born witness to the living hell that is most animals’ experience at our hands, we have to make use of so often inadequate, man-made words to pierce through the cold walls of human indifference.

We have to touch. We have to bring viscerally to life. We have to use the power of truthfully observed detail, noticing everything (inside and out) feeling everything, to rekindle the embers of better being in us all, to remind us of our tragically long-forgotten inter-species unity, of our sameness, (and not our petty differences). We have to break down centuries of hardened, calloused indifference.

Abstractions and vast statistics simply don’t touch the majority. If they cannot, as readers, imagine themselves inside the experience of the suffering other, if they cannot identify, they will not be motivated to make personal changes, and to fight for change. Reading is a co-creative process – and it requires the writer to have gone there fully first; to powerfully evoke.

Writers who have the conscience, kindness and commitment to actually write about animals, who have the courage to look their suffering directly in the eye (a tough, torturous path, though very necessary) who have the devotion to their animal brothers and sisters to dedicate themselves to ending all the terrible oppression, all the atrocity, abuse and pain – must never be held back by that old, bitter and selfishly motivated accusation of “anthropomorphism!”

To empathise is not to fantasize or to project at all – but rather to recognise fellow suffering when we see, hear, smell, know and touch it. To empathise is to connect to the vivid reality of another. It is to make real, to embody the cosmic Golden Rule to “Do as you would be done by” and the Silver Rule to “Not do as you would not be done by.” It is love in action.

There is nothing sentimental whatsoever about this compulsion at all. It is, in fact, our highest calling. And there should be no apologies for it either.

Where would we be if we had failed to empathize with the many victims of the slave-trade, of vicious, racist and sexist attacks, of war, terrorism and famine? Where would all the children be, all the people with learning difficulties and mental health problems, all the political prisoners who suffered so long at human hands, if we had failed to finally empathize with their plight, to bring it to light so that others could feel it for themselves – and thus demand change?

By contrast, sentimentality is to imagine what is not there. It is to dump idealized longings onto others for our own selfish sakes. It is to bypass reality.

That is not what writers who empathize with their fellow beings do at all. Writers who empathize connect again, (where most have disconnected,) and report back. We do this in order to wake ourselves and others up, to shake us all out of our self-centred reveries, to pour a cold bucket of water over our conveniently slumbering consciences. We cry out with everything we have in us: “Have you seen what’s going on here? Will you please look! How can you bear it? Do something! We each have a moral responsibility! They are just like us – how can you not care?”

Writers who empathize force us all to look at what we each are doing, what we are colluding in, what we are contributing to. We are forced to take responsibility for our negative day-to-day choices that directly correlate, incrementally, to immense, unimaginable, abominable animal suffering. Empathic writing cuts through all those guilt-filled attempts at avoidance and dismissal, the desperate pleas of “don’t tell me, don’t tell me – I don’t want to know!”

I say it again, there must be no apologies. It is our violent culture that is so wrong, not the courageous writers who dare to expose this violence. It is not the writer who should modify his or her approach for fear of upsetting the oppressors, the animal abusers, the exploiters and the colluders, for fear of public ridicule – but rather the oppressors, the animal abusers, the exploiters and the colluders who should hang their heads in shame.

The time will come when we will look back on this longest of struggles, this most devilish of slaveries – the enslavement of our vulnerable, innocent, animal kin, (who should have had our protection,) as we now do on human slavers, on human murderers, on rapists and paedophiles. (Let’s not forget all the ‘licensed’ animal brothels currently open across the world, and the crush video sadists who are making a fortune in this twenty-first century.) It is the unenlightened who need to apologize and repent for their cruel abominations – not the empathic writers who seek to understand and communicate the hidden truth.

I would rather be accused of “anthropomorphism!” and “sentimentality!” any day, than of animal rape or animal murder. I would rather care too deeply (is there such a thing?) than not enough. I would rather be accused of being over-soft, than over-hard. I would rather love, than hate. And I would far rather be defined as a bunny-hugger than a bunny vivisector, a bunny killer, a bunny torturer, an angora wool-puller, a blood-covered, live animal skinner.

Let us never be ashamed. Let us write passionately and movingly on behalf of our suffering, animal kin, in order to shine the most powerful light we possibly can, the Divine light of creativity, on the world’s man-made darkness. Let us break open hearts in the process, so that healing can begin. As Francis of Assisi said, “A single sunbeam is enough to drive away many shadows.”

Let us write without any fear of retribution or of societal reprimand. Let us remember the billions of animal victims instead, and forget our human accusers.

One day they will thank us for it. One day they will try and claim they too were part of the resistance.


Title borrowed in part from Kurt Cobain who turned me from pescetarian to vegan, when I finally heard the painful irony in his lyrics: “It’s OK to eat fish because they don’t have any feelings.”

sowing the vegan garden: guest blog by Amy Dyer

Iona-black-lambs-blog

Becoming vegan is like planting the most delicate seed within yourself. You’re not quite sure what to do at first, or what’s going to happen. Everyone will have an opinion on how to care for the seed, or whether you should have even planted it at all!

But just be. Listen to yourself, to your body, question everything, do your own research (nutritionfacts.org for example) and the seed will flourish.

You may have planted this seed for the animals, for your health, or for any number of other reasons, but which does not matter. All roads lead to this place, and as with all things the more you read and experience, the more you realise how interconnected all things are!

When you nourish your body, you feel lighter, for you are not having to carry the burden of suffering within you, and if like me you have low self-esteem then please remember how much you are helping yourself, the world and the animals each and every day just by what you eat.

But, ultimately these choices are your choices and they need to be sustainable.

Be gentle with yourself, you will reap the rewards of your toil, of your mistakes, of your triumphs, your garden will be beautiful but it takes time. It may not look like anybody else’s garden but that’s the beauty: it is yours, your offering to your body and to the whole of creation.

Enter this garden by your own path, let each step be a day of inquiry, of enjoyment, of sustenance.

One step is better than standing still, paralysed by fear and the restraints of the society in which we live.

Science is slowly catching up and we are finding that, for the most part, it is knitting wonderfully with sacred plant medicine.

Please do not feel overwhelmed by the opinions and ways of the world around you. Be strong, tolerant, compassionate. Experiment, enjoy and watch the doors of friendship and opportunity open up to you.

 

 


 

the downturn in animal welfare

So the British Government has stated its intention to scrap animal welfare codes in the farming industry. Instead – get this – the industry will regulate itself. You can see where that will go, can’t you: only downwards. I am despairing.

We have supposedly some of the best animal welfare standards in the world, and it is still appalling. Battery hens still only have a cage the size of a sheet of A4 paper; one-day old male chicks are minced alive, or gassed, or suffocated in plastic bags; breeding sows are still kept in in tiny metal breeding stalls (and it’s said the piglets are dropped through metal bars onto conveyor belts); veal calves are taken from their mothers at a few days of age and raised in the dark, in small areas, for all of their short lives; and mares are kept pregnant, in confined spaces, in order to produce the hormone used to make HRT for menopausal women (it is NOT necessary, folks; go the herbal route; contact me, or better still, search the web, for more info) – hence some of the brand names (eg Premarin). This is our ‘high welfare’.

As John Vidal said in yesterday’s Guardian (March 26, 2016), the plans may knock a penny or two off an already-cheap chicken, but are likely – quite apart from all the welfare issues – to see the continued disruption of health scares.

How can deregulation do anything other than intensify the conditions, ripe for disease, in which already-intensive animal farming rears its victims?

Vidal points out that ‘it was the total failure of the industry ability to regulate itself that led to last year’s chicken bug scandal when [it was found] that nearly 8 out of 10 fresh chickens bought from British supermarkets were contaminated with the potentially lethal food-poisoning bug campylobacter, costing the NHS nearly £900m… more than 240,000 people a year were getting ill and up to 100 were dying… Salmonella in eggs, BSE in cattle, foot-and-mouth disease* and swine flu – all followed cuts in animal welfare standards or inspection services.’

This is environment minister Liz Truss’ drive. Vidal points out that under TTIP, if it happens, there will be a downfall in food and farming standards; the US agribusiness will be exporting to Europe animal products from a farming system with much lower welfare and hygiene standards than our own.

If we exit the EU, then clearly, as he states, our welfare standards are likely to fall, anyway.

Whichever way you look at it, animals will suffer more. Chances are humans who eat them will, too. We cannot let this happen. There are, hooray, greater numbers of people becoming vegetarian for a range of reasons: animal welfare, personal health, budget, awareness of the environmental cost, and the enormous and inefficient demand for land and water to produce such a small amount of food for a burgeoning population. More people, too, are looking at vegan options.

But we have a VERY long way to go before we can be proud of the way we relate to animals. (As my partner said yesterday: many people unthinkingly consider them really to be automata, more or less.)

Meantime, we need to challenge, at the very least, this proposed downgrading of animal welfare and the knock-on effects on humans.

If anyone knows of a petition started up to protest this, please add it to the Comments. If it doesn’t happen, I might just have to start one myself.

And you could also write to your MP?

March 30th: here’s the petition link. It’d be great if you’d sign and share it:

https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/stop-the-repeal-of-animal-welfare-codes?time=1459070182

~~~

* Foot-and-mouth disease: I documented this as it happened in Devon, and in fictional form but with factual accuracy it forms part of my last novel, The Burning Ground.