Welfare of Animals

What more can we do to promote the welfare of animals?  I pose the question because it was asked of me, as a guest speaker, at a seminar organised last week by the British Veterinary Association Animal Welfare Foundation.

I am aware that there is a view that "if he only spent as much time on us as he does on animals we'd all be better off" but I also happen to believe that the manner in which we treat our children, our elderly and our animals is a measure of our compassion and our success or failure as a society. Someone in Parliament has to devote time to each of these and I try to find time for all of them. Last week it was the animals` turn!

The Animal Welfare Act could make some modest difference to the welfare of domestic animals.  Unless, though, it is enforced and policed and unless resources are put into its’ implementation then it will not be worth the paper that it is written on.  I do not believe that it is right or appropriate for even such a respected charity as the RSPCA to have to bear the burden of law enforcement.  We have the words. Where's the cash?

The welfare of farm animals continues to leave a very great deal to be desired.  Those few sad insomniacs who, like myself, find themselves on a Saturday morning listening to "Farming Today" will have heard the post-BVA seminar discussion on this subject.  "What value do you put on a farm animal" I was asked?  Farmers know the value of their animals in commercial terms but they also put a higher, more emotional, value on their care and welfare. Without fair pricing, though (milk is cheaper in the supermarket than fizzy water!) they simply cannot afford top quality veterinary attention and medicines.  Are we prepared to pay higher prices for higher standards? Or are we simply going to go on buying cheap animal products imported from countries where the animals are reared under conditions simply not permitted in the UK.? Crocodile tears? (and shoes!) Or, literally, money where your mouth is?

Then there are "recreation animals". Not just horses and ponies but racehorses and greyhounds.  Are we seriously suggesting that enough of the many millions of pounds generated by the industries that keep bookmakers in the style to which they wish to become accustomed goes back into the welfare of the animals that create the loot?  I hardly think so!

Add in laboratory animals and exotics - wild caught species - and circuses and there's a very broad canvass of demand to paint on!

I do not think that we are bad and we are most certainly better than many as a nation. But let's not pretend that a piece of paper called The Animal Welfare Act has solved the problem or even gives us cause for one iota of complacency.

The question that I was actually asked by the BVA is "What more can Vets do to improve animal welfare"? The real question is "What more can and must we ALL do if we are to show that we are not just paying lip-service to the issue?”

In the great debate about global warming and the environment and  all that and in the welter of "touchy-feely" politics that is being heaped upon us by Green Labour, Green Tory, Green Liberal and Green Green - and other parties - I don't detect any very great concern for animals.  Wake up, I think is the expression, and smell the coffee!

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