In the forthcoming General Election, I aim to support campaigns that helps ensure improved protection for animals from cruelty and abuse. Animal protection should be a priority for any civilised society, and I believe that political debate has so far tended to ignore the deep concerns of millions of voters on this issue. I am participating in the ‘Protecting Animals in Democracy’ (PAD) project, which involves surveying candidates on their position on five key animal protection issues that are likely to be on the political agenda during the next Parliament, and are being advanced by animal welfare and rights organisations.
I have completed the questionnaire available at www.vote4animals.org.uk/downloads/pad-questionnaire-2010.doc in order that myself and other conscientious voters can make informed choices come Election day. Here are my answers below:
1. Hunting Ban
Recent opinion polling confirms a clear majority of both rural and urban dwellers are opposed to hunting with hounds. The legitimate sphere of personal freedom does not extend to cruelty and violence towards others.
Will you support the Hunting Act 2004, oppose any moves to repeal this legislation, and support robust enforcement of the Act?
2. Democratic Reform
The Animal Welfare Act does not cover animals used in agriculture and research. A situation has evolved over many decades whereby the Government takes decisions affecting millions of animals in closed policy processes dominated by commercial interests, with animal welfare considerations effectively excluded. The ethical concerns of the public are largely ignored, undermining democracy and public trust in politics. We need a democratically-accountable body to create a level playing field and ensure animal protection is given a meaningful voice in Government for the first time.
Will you support the establishment of an Animal Protection Commission with overall responsibility for all policies affecting animal wellbeing?
3. Battery Egg Farming
Battery farming of eggs – involving around 30 million hens every year – is arguably the cruellest form of farming in the UK. Current EU plans to replace conventional battery cage with so-called ‘enriched’ battery cages by 2012 are inadequate. ‘Enriched’ battery cages share many of the serious welfare problems common to the conventional battery cage. A comprehensive ban on battery cages will complement the scheduled 2011 prohibition of de-beaking, which is a painful and unnecessary mutilation.
Do you support a full ban on all battery cages for egg laying hens in 2012 and the scheduled prohibition of de-beaking in 2011?
4. Reducing and Eliminating Animal Experimentation
There is broad agreement that the infliction of pain on animals raises serious ethical concerns and that there are significant scientific limitations to the use of animal models as a guide to human biology. We therefore support the recommendation of the Home Office’s Animal Procedures Committee for a determined, targetted effort to bring about the end of animal use. In other policy areas, demanding targets have been identified as providing a goal even where these targets might require technological and other innovation if they were to be met. We believe in an analogous strategy in relation to animal use.
Do you support a strategy to identify and implement targets for the reduction and elimination of animal experimentation?
5. Animal Experiments: Freedom of Information
Section 24 of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 blocks the publication of important information about animal experiments. PAD and the other major animal protection groups agree that researchers’ names and addresses and genuinely confidential information should remain secret. Given that each animal experiment is only rendered legal through the authorisation by the Government, acting on behalf of voters, we believe that the public should be able to access all other information relevant to the ethics of animal experiments, including what is being done to the animals and for what purpose.
Do you support the repeal of Section 24 of the 1986 Act and the application of FOI to animal experiments, except for personal and genuinely confidential information?
6. Biofuels and Animal Habitats
The preservation of natural habitats is crucial to protect the welfare of individual animals as well preserving biodiversity and other environmental benefits. Increasing demand for biofuels has proved to be a leading driver of deforestation in some of the most biodiverse places on earth, causing widespread suffering and death to many animals. Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs) incentivise the use of palm and other tropical oils as fuel for transport, power generation and heating in the EU, driving animals such as orangutans to the brink of extinction. Furthermore, the alternative source of biofuels is growing crops on agricultural land, which directly competes with growing food for people in areas where food scarcity is already a problem. Biofuels are not a sustainable solution to climate change, unlike truly renewable energy from sources such as wind, solar and tidal.
Do you support only giving subsidies to sustainable forms of energy production that protect animal welfare, and ensuring that biofuels are not subsidised through Renewable Obligation Certificates?