CCTV in Slaughterhouses – at last

This news has been a long time coming. Animal welfare activists have been campaigning for CCTV in all UK slaughterhouses since CCTV was invented.

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Animal Aid secretly filmed in 13 slaughterhouses between 2009 and 2014 and found evidence of animal cruelty and lawbreaking in 12 of them. Such evidence includes animals being beaten and punched and cigarettes being stubbed out in pigs’ faces. You can find more details if you wish to educate yourself but I don’t really want to dwell on it.

The new environment secretary Michael Gove will be introducing mandatory CCTV in all slaughterhouses in England as part of a focus on animal welfare and environment protection during Brexit. Animal Aid has, of course, welcomed the news, given that they have campaigned for this for so long, but they stressed that the CCTV must be independently monitored and spot checks should be carried out to ensure that the new measure is effective. Little detail has so far been announced but we do know that vets from the FSA will be able to access footage from CCTV used in all areas where animals are handled, kept and killed.

Some abattoirs already have CCTV as a voluntary measure and to comply with requests from supermarkets to ensure compassionate standards are met. Compulsory CCTV should prevent millions of animals suffering such horrifying cruelty behind closed doors as perpetrators of abuse can now be prosecuted.

HOWEVER.

I have some minor points to make about the ethics.

  • Animals are still being murdered so people can eat them.
  • Animals still undergo a long journey in cramped conditions, without food or water, so that people can murder them and other people can eat them.
  • Animals are still being reared in unpleasant and sometimes cruel conditions, subject to cruel practices, so that people can murder then eat them.

Compulsory CCTV will not prevent abuse and cruelty at the other stages of this long and complicated chain. It will not prevent the murdering for food. It is the absolute barest minimum we can do so that these animals don’t suffer in their final moments.

It feels strangely uncomfortable to be pleased about this. Is this really the best we can do? Is this what it means to have the highest welfare standards in the world? That we should feel satisfied that a long, long campaign for the barest minimum protection of animals has finally been granted (under the true motivation of sticking it to the EU.)

I’ll end this confusing post – confusing because of my conflicting emotions of relief and contempt – with some words from Isobel Hutchinson of Animal Aid:

“Although this development is undoubtedly a huge step forward, we urge the public to remember that even when the law is followed to the letter, slaughter is a brutal and pitiless business that can never be cruelty-free.

 

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GE17: Manifestos on the Environment

Less than a week to go until the “snap” General Election 2017 that nobody wanted but what are the parties promising on the environment?

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Here’s a quick summary:

Green Party

  • preserve all EU environmental laws and principles after Brexit
  • introduce Environment Protection Act to preserve wildlife and habitats and ensure all have right to access green space
  • work towards global temperature rise of below 1.5 degrees
  • ban fracking
  • end fossil-fuel use
  • support onshore wind and solar power
  • all new homes to be zero carbon by 2020 and improve energy efficiency of old homes
  • remove diesel cars through scrappage
  • £2 million for cycle and walking schemes
  • redirect farmer subsidies towards sustainable land management
  • marine protection network around the UK, maintaining sustainable fish stocks

Labour

  • will meet international climate targets and transition to low carbon economy
  • protect current EU environmental standards and principles
  • nationalise the energy market
  • ban fracking
  • interest free loans for landlords to improve energy sufficiency of their properties, as well as improving insulation in 4 million homes
  • introduce a Clean Air Act
  • invest in electric vehicle manufacture and use
  • targets to reduce plastic bottle waste
  • plant 1 million trees to help natural flood management
  • protect land and sea habitats

Liberal Democrats

  • maintain EU environmental standards
  • create governmental office for sustainability
  • create blue belt for marine life
  • introduce a Zero Carbon Britain Act, Green Buildings Act, Zero Waste Act, and an Air Quality Act
  • expand renewables by 60% by 2030
  • diesel scrappage scheme
  • plant a tree per citizen
  • maintain Paris climate obligations
  • £2 million for flood prevention
  • redirect farmers’ subsidies towards healthy food and effective land management

Conservatives

  • continue to meet the international goal of reducing emissions by 80% by 2050
  • £600 million investment to make every car have zero emissions by 2050
  • upgrading poor fuel homes by 2030 to EPC band C
  • possible offshore wind technology, particular in the Scottish isles (if they are still within the UK….)
  • subsidies for farmers guaranteed until 2022 (new schemes to come into play after that)
  • improving water courses with landowners to manage natural flood defenses
  • commercial fishing to preserve fish stocks
  • free vote on the Hunting Act

 

Hope this helps you come to the right decision for the environment this Thursday!

Brexit is terrible, but….

… it might just save the British countryside by destroying our farming industry.

The European Union pays out €50bn of public money in farm subsidies; to qualify, the land must be kept bare. Consequently, hectare upon hectare of native forests and wildlife has been cleared to claim the funds.

George Monbiot suggests here that the area devoted to sheep grazing in the UK roughly equates to the amount of land used to produce all of our crops, yet lamb and mutton provide 1.2% of our diet. This production is clearly not worth the destruction it causes – and grazing sheep radically alters and erodes the landscape.

Nearly half of the average farmer’s income comes from EU subsidies, so it’s quite reasonable to believe small to medium farmers when they say they will go under without the subsidies. But why should public money fund such a destructive and unproductive industry?*

Monbiot suggests an alternative: we pay our farmers to be conservationists instead.

The only fair way of resolving this incipient crisis is to continue to provide public money, but only for the delivery of public goods – such as restoring ecosystems, preventing flooding downstream, and bringing children and adults back into contact with the living world. This should be accompanied by rules strong enough to ensure that farmers can no longer pollute our rivers, strip the soil from the land, wipe out pollinators and other wildlife, and destroy the features of the countryside with impunity.

*I’m talking in general terms – I know there are huge differences in types of farming in terms of productiveness, and sheep grazing is probably the most extreme example. Overall, it is just my opinion that mostly it does much more harm to wildlife than good.