Farm animal welfare

Some animals are more sentient than others

CIWFCIWFThe farm animal charity Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) bases its work on the premise that all animals are 'sentient beings'. This is not surprising but it does mean that organisations that legally recognise this fact should aim to avoid the maltreatment of farm animals. Amazingly, the European Union recognised animal sentience in the Treaty of Rome 1972. However, when one considers the plight of North Sea fish under the Common Fisheries Policy or the introduction of American style hog farms in Eastern Europe, the short, sad life of factory farmed chickens, force-fed geese and so on, one does wonder whether the bureaucrats ever read this section or whether this was translated correctly into 27 languages.

Great Britain has better legislation than many countries. For example it bans the production of paté de foie gras (but not its import) and it does not allow sow crates (but not the import of cruelly reared pork). Even if we had a sensible government and also one that was humane towards animals there would still be the problem of the G8 to overcome. This states that a government cannot discriminate imports on grounds of animal welfare. We cannot label food as coming from England and the bizarre situation results that for example Romanian turkey that is simply labelled or processed in England can be called English Turkey. And so it goes. So we are stuck with a cruel system that is costing the British taxpayers a fortune. It costs £28,000,000,000 to run the Common Agricultural Policy.

CIWF campaignCIWF campaignCIWF with great difficulty managed to prevent the EU subsidising live exports to the Far East in the, Stop the Bull Ship campaign, fronted by lovely Joanna Lumley, but recent campaigns are foundering, such as a proposed ban on caged chickens by 2012. 40,000 chickens can be crammed into a single shed. The routine prescribing of antibiotics in order to promote growth and ease the problems of overcrowding has caused problems for both animals and humans. Farm animal MRSA is spreading like wildfire on intensive farms in continental Europe. The humans carrying the virus tend to be farmers, vets, abbatoir workers and the like. In Holland 25% of all human MRSA cases are caused by the farm animal strain (despite low rates overall). Globally and in the UK the main problem is with E.coli which is found on a large number of farms. Add battery chickensbattery chickensall this to bird flu which is also blamed on intensive farming and we have a practical reason for animal welfare even for those who are not too concerned about animal welfare issues.

If you don't believe any of this and are tough on animal welfare issues then perhaps you might spare a thought for the poor farmers in the developing world. By means of export tariffs and farm subsidies the CAP dumps food on the developing world 3 billion people live on less than $2, less than the support received by an average European cow. Dumping affects poor farmers directly by putting them out of business. No one could compete with the prices of wheat, powdered milk and sugar produced at a quarter to a half of average costs of production. More than a half of the world's poor depend on farming so this can be a life or death situation for them. Make Poverty History? You must be taking the Micky Mr.Brown.

fat catfat catPerhaps you are bored by the poor in other parts of the world? Perhaps unlike Mrs. Jellaby you think that charity begins at home? Well, the Common Agricultural Policy costs the average family over £16 pounds a week. Most of this money goes to a handful of large farmers, for as we know our small farmers are in despair and having to sell their farms because the supermarkets can impose Scrooge-like conditions. So, who benefits? Certainly not the animals, not small farmers in rich or poor countries. Our health may be being seriously affected and pollution is caused by intensive rearing practices. So, who wins?