Queen’s Speech has potential to help animals

Posted on the 10th May 2021

It is expected that, during tomorrow's Queen’s speech, the Government will announce an animal welfare strategy. It has been reported in various places, most recently in the press this weekend, that the strategy will, among other things, include a ban on fur imports and the live export of animals, plus stop the horrendous practice of gassing pigs with carbon dioxide. Sadly we have been told that animal experimentation will not be covered by this Defra strategy, because they are under the remit of the Home Office.

Our campaigns have, over more than 40 years, proven how terribly animals are treated by many industries – farming, shooting, horse-racing, slaughterhouses and animal experiments. And so we welcome legislation that ends animal suffering.  We obviously want to see a world where every animal is able to live their life, free from harm and exploitation at the hands of humans.

Here are some of the areas, apart from animal experiments, where we have the greatest concern about animals and the most egregious cruelty that they suffer. We would like to see:

A ban on the live export of farmed animals of all species and for ANY purpose, be it for ‘breeding’, ‘fattening/production’ or ‘slaughter’

Live exports puts animals in danger, at increased risk of human maltreatment and is detrimental to their positive health and welfare.

The live export of farmed animals causes stress, injury, dehydration, stress-linked disease such as salmonellosis in sheep and respiratory disease in cattle. The live export of high numbers of sick or diseased animals is a particular concern, both for the welfare of the animals concerned and the spreading of disease. There is greater propensity for disease transmission with live animals.

 

A ban on use of high levels of carbon dioxide gas for killing pigs.

It is widely recognised that there are severe welfare problems inherent in the use of high CO2 concentrations to slaughter pigs. A 2003 report by the Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC, now AWC) concluded that “the use of high concentrations of CO2 to stun and kill pigs is not acceptable and we wish to see it phased out in five years”. There appears to be little movement on this issue.

The recent Defra Review of the Welfare of Animals at the Time of Killing (England) Regulations 2015 Post Implementation Review’ should go much further, by putting an end to this practice. Instead it states “This is an area we need to consider further in terms of research into alternative systems for stunning pigs.” – a retrograde step

 

Full independent monitoring of CCTV for all English and Welsh slaughterhouses.

The welfare of animals at the time of their slaughter remains a matter of considerable public concern. Confidence in the government’s oversight of the sector can only have been damaged by an almost continual series of slaughterhouse undercover investigations that produced disturbing footage of ill-treatment of animals at the time they were being stunned and then killed. Against this background, the effective implementation of legal welfare standards and the monitoring and inspection of processes are essential.

Animal Aid produced an extensive report in 2016, which concluded that the current system of welfare monitoring is failing and that compulsory use of CCTV, with independent monitoring, is the only robust solution.

Research into the use of artificial intelligence monitoring technology, in additional to Official Veterinary controls in slaughterhouses to aid in the detection of poor practice and mistreatment of animals.

Prohibiting the routine mutilation of farmed animals such as ‘debeaking’ of laying hens and greater enforcement of existing legislation regarding ‘tooth clipping’ and cutting off of piglets’ tails.

These procedures appear to persist widely across the UK, despite the ban as evidenced by industry surveys and investigations by animal protection groups.

AHDB Pork’s summary report on Real Welfare data: “Baseline report: 2013-2016 Measuring welfare outcomes in pigs”, published 2018 found that 70% of pigs’ tails were docked.

A ban on all crates and cages for animals who are farmed including, but not limited to, farrowing crates for sows, raised cages breeding gamebirds and enriched colony cages for egg-laying hens.

A continued ban on the genetic editing of farmed animals.

Gene editing technologies threaten to push farmed animals even closer to – or further beyond – their biological limits.

Secure a ban on factory farming and bring about an immediate moratorium on the creation of new large-scale intensive animal farming operations for both land and sea animals.

In the UK today, there are 1,674 operational factory farms, with almost 800 of those classed as megafarms. Around a billion land animals suffer terribly in these cruel systems every year.

From a human and non-human animal health perspective, these filthy, stressful, crowded sheds with genetically similar animals and little or no light are the perfect environment for viruses to mutate and spread. They are the leading cause of antimicrobial resistance and the spread of potentially deadly diseases. Reassortment can lead to new strains continually? emerging.

Animal Aid produced this extensive reference report: ‘Is Factory Farming Making Us Sick’:

Polling in January by animal protection group Viva! found that some 9 in 10 Britons want a ban on factory farming, due to concerns of the spread of lethal viruses:

A ban on the individual housing of dairy calves (female herd replacers) in calf hutches

This set up does not allow for meaningful socialisation with their own kind.

Ban on the ‘zero grazing’ of dairy cows and goats.

Statutory regulation to limit the number of horses bred in the United Kingdom

The known horse population in the United Kingdom is a loose, largely unidentifiable, figure; this is despite passport and microchip regulation and tracking. As a direct result of this, horses of all breeds and types are potentially vulnerable to welfare issues at some point during their lives. The outcome for exposed welfare cases is, in a figure of thousands of equines each year, destruction via the slaughterhouse or veterinary profession.

Unregulated and indiscriminate breeding practices are operated at both a commercial and private level. Within this uncontrolled system, there are far more horses bred than there are owners to accommodate the annual foal numbers (as well as an existing residual juvenile and mature horse population) leaving surplus equines to market forces – even during periods of national economic growth. An economic downturn or recession exposes and exacerbates unwanted horse numbers, as it is economic factors that govern the life outcomes for all horses within the current unregulated breeding system.

To quantify the UK horse population on an annual and strategic basis there is a need for statutory regulation to limit the number of equines bred – both commercially and privately – in the United Kingdom. This would reduce welfare cases by matching foal numbers to the potential owner population, and as a consequence, it would alleviate the parallel projection of negative economic variability to increased welfare issues.

Statutory regulation to limit the use of the whip on the equine population in the United Kingdom

The ubiquitous use of the whip across all equine disciplines whether at an amateur or professional level in the United Kingdom is predominantly unregulated; even within the professional sport horse community, self-regulation on whip use can fail the horse.

Without a standard protocol that protects horses and ponies from whip abuse, equine welfare is seriously compromised. The variability in whip design from a crude and inflexible stick/crop to a cushioned implement is extreme – each of which can be used at the rider’s discretion; often with an irregular, unsuitable or an unacceptable welfare outcome. When used in a coercive manner, the use of any of these devises has a negative physical and psychological impact on the horse/pony. There is, therefore, a need for statutory regulation on whip use and on whip design that would be incorporated as best practice into all disciplines and aspects of equitation, at both amateur and professional levels.

The establishment of an independent equine welfare body for sport horses with statutory power for improved welfare outcomes

Sport horse welfare has seen increase public awareness and concern in recent years. Its social license to operate has come under increasing scrutiny, and this will be further pursued as welfare issues continue to remain unresolved.

These include unregulated breeding, competition parameters that allow death and injury to horses, and aftercare that is left to market forces to determine a sport horse’s future after the animal has left the professional industry.

Despite the existing sport horse welfare agencies in the United Kingdom governed predominantly through subjective self-regulation – for example, by the British Horseracing Authority, the Fédération Equestre Internationale, and indeed, the National Equine Welfare Council – they fail to meet an overall strategy of provision. There is also a conflict of interest in the required promotion and pro-economic return, which is balanced against welfare boundaries that can restrict improved equine welfare outcomes.

A ban on cages for all game birds

Tens of thousands of breeding pheasants and partridges, used by the shooting industry, are kept in battery-style cages. Repeated investigations by Animal Aid have shown that these cages are often devoid of even the minimal ‘enrichment’ that is required by the government’s own Code and that they breach aspects of the Animal Welfare Act. Animal Aid is calling for a ban on the use of cages to confine breeding game birds.

Ban the manufacture, sale, possession and use of snares.

A snare is a thin, wire noose. They are ‘set’ by people, with the aim that they will catch certain animals – foxes and rabbits – by the leg or the neck. The snare setter wishes to ‘control’ these wild animals, usually because they think the animal will damage their crops or the animals they are producing, and so they want to kill the ‘pests’.

Find out more about our snares campaign

If these elements were covered in the strategy, it could, potentially, carve the UK out as a progressive, compassionate place, where animals do have certain rights, which are not only acknowledged, but also protected in law.

We will be watching and listening to the speech and associated announcements, We truly hope the strategy really is the turning over of a new leaf, rather than an attempt to greenwash the harming and killing of millions of animals.

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