Our 5 Political Asks
Animal Aid joins other organisations in calling for a ban on the use of animals in circuses, an end to the culling of badgers and other wildlife and the strengthening of the Hunting Act. In addition, we are calling for:
2. An end to government-funded animal experimentation
3. An end to battery cages for breeding ‘game’ birds
4. A ban on the use of the whip in horseracing
5. Extend the Animal Welfare Act to include protection for decapod crustaceans and cephalopods.
1. Mandatory CCTV in slaughterhouses
Between 2009 and 2014, Animal Aid filmed inside ten randomly chosen UK slaughterhouses and found nine of them were breaking animal welfare laws. The on-site vets did not see or report any of the breaches, and nor did the slaughterhouse operators who have ultimate responsibility for welfare.
We filmed: pigs burnt with cigarettes; animals punched, kicked, goaded, beaten, dragged by their ears and tails; sheep picked up by their fleeces and thrown into the stun pen; animals deliberately given electric shocks through their tails, legs, ears, snouts and open mouths; animals going to the knife without adequate stunning; animals stunned and then allowed to come round again; botched and multiple stuns; seriously injured pigs forced to drag themselves through the slaughterhouse; pigs falling from slaughter lines into blood pits and being dragged out while live pigs looked on; an inadequately stunned calf kicking on the floor while the stun operator stood on him to keep him still; animals kicked in the face, slapped and thrown to the floor; sheep decapitated while still alive; a bovine stunning pen without the compulsory head shelf fitted, which caused misplaced stuns and additional suffering; and young calves left in the stunning pens for up to three hours before being stunned.
UK slaughterhouses need independently monitored CCTV cameras to deter welfare abuses, to encourage best practice and to help vets do their job.
As a result of Animal Aid campaigning, all the major supermarkets now insist CCTV cameras are used by their slaughterhouse suppliers; 145 MPs and more than half of all Welsh Assembly Members support mandatory CCTV; and, of those who expressed an opinion in a 2014 YouGov poll, 87 per cent of the public supports it.* If you do, too, please order our campaign postcards to send to your MP.
2. No government-funded animal experimentation
Animal research is one of the most morally and scientifically contentious issues of our time. Many experiments using animals are funded by the taxpayer, as opposed to those undertaken by industry or by private research bodies. A 2014 YouGov poll found that 40 per cent of respondents oppose the use of taxpayers’ money to fund animal research.* The figure rises to 47 per cent when only those who expressed an opinion are counted.
In the 2012-2013 financial year, government research councils spent more than £300 million on ‘projects that include an element of animal use’. Yet less than three per cent of this sum was used to develop methods for replacing the use of animals in research.
Examples of recent, publicly funded animal experiments include:
- Marmosets being confined in a box and subjected to stressful stimuli, including a rubber snake.
- Cats being paralysed and subjected to craniotomy surgery so that electrodes could be inserted into their brains.
- Mice – who are bred, used and killed thousands at a time in publicly funded experiments – being subjected to ‘forced-swim’ tests to deliberately induce anxiety, depression and despair
For all the suffering they cause, animal experiments do not produce results that can be reliably translated to humans. There are several main reasons for this:
- There are fundamental differences between species. These relate to anatomy, organ structure and function, metabolism, chemical absorption, genetics, mechanism of DNA repair, behaviour and lifespan.
- The diseases artificially inflicted on animals in laboratories do not accurately replicate naturally occurring human illness.
- Some of the most common and debilitating adverse reactions to drugs are not outwardly visible and therefore cannot be detected in animal tests. These include: headache, nausea, mental disturbance, dizziness, fatigue, depression, confusion and double vision.
The use of taxpayers’ money to fund a practice that is so ethically and scientifically flawed cannot possibly be justified.
3. No cages for breeding ‘game’ birds
Every year, more than 45 million pheasants and partridges are bred on farms and released into the wild to be shot at for sport. The breeding birds used to produce these live feathered targets are kept in cages for the whole of their ‘productive’ lives.
Made of wire mesh and metal sheeting, the cages expose the birds to the elements all year round. Pheasants are typically confined in groups of eight to ten females and one male. Partridges are held in breeding pairs in metal boxes that are correspondingly smaller and just as bleak as the pheasant units. Covert filming undertaken by Animal Aid demonstrates that the birds suffer a high incidence of feather-loss and back and head wounds. Many of the pheasants fly-upwards repeatedly at their cage roofs in a forlorn attempt to escape. The resulting damage to their heads is known as ‘scalping’. We have also filmed many dead birds inside the cages.
Under the last Labour government, a Code of Practice was introduced that would have effectively outlawed the battery cages but, within weeks of taking office, the Conservative Minister, James Paice, scrapped the Code, replacing it with a watered-down version, that allowed the cages to remain, albeit in their so-called ‘enriched’ form. The so-called ‘enriched’ cages have a plastic curtain towards the back of the cage for ‘privacy’ and a block of wood or a piece of dowl suspended on two bricks for perching. Despite these ‘enrichments’, the cages remain oppressive, unforgiving contraptions. Paice had withdrawn the Labour government initiated Code that would have got rid of cages altogether while he was still a Director of the pro-shooting Game and Wildlife Conservancy Trust.
A 2014 YouGov poll found that 87.5 per cent of those who expressed a view, oppose the use of cages for breeding ‘game’ birds.* If you do, too, please send an email to Defra requesting a ban on the use of these cages.
4. Ban the whip in horseracing
Race horses are the only animals who can be beaten in public for entertainment, and it is time this was rectified. It is Animal Aid’s view that, while horseracing continues, jockeys should only be allowed to carry a whip for safety, in case a genuine emergency arises such as if the trajectory of the horse changes so as to put the horse, rider or spectators in danger. This has been the law in Norway since 1982 when use of the whip was banned.
The British Horseracing Authority’s regulations specify the whip should be used for ‘safety, correction and encouragement only’. However, jockeys usually take the whip to their mounts in the final stages of a race when their horses are tiring to ‘encourage’ them to run up to and beyond their limits.
The regulations state that jockeys may whip their horses seven times in a Flat race and eight times in a Jump race. These limits are often breached. In 2013, 580 whip offences were recorded.
Whips commonly used in racing have a padded area at the end but they also have a long, hard handle that frequently and painfully comes into physical contact with the horse – not only on the quarters but also down the shoulder and neck. In 2010, the British Horse Racing Authority recorded 17 incidents of horses being beaten so hard with the so-called ‘higher welfare’ cushioned whips that they were left with a weal (a raised mark produced by the blow). In 2013, the recorded figure was four horses.
Whip advocates claim that horses do not feel the whip because of the adrenalin provoked by the race. But, as a racing correspondent for The Guardian wrote, ‘If the horse didn’t feel it, there would be no point in using it.’
Public opinion is with us. A YouGov poll commissioned by Animal Aid in 2014 found that, of those who expressed a view, 81 per cent oppose the use of the whip.* Even the pro-racing regulatory body, the British Horseracing Authority, found that the majority of people it surveyed in 2011 backed an outright ban.
5. Extend the Animal Welfare Act to include protection for decapod crustaceans and cephalopods
There is a growing body of research that indicates cephalopods (octopus, squid, cuttlefish and nautilus) and decapod crustaceans (lobster, crab and crayfish) experience pain.
Catching, trapping, handling, holding, storing and killing can cause injury, stress and suffering to decapod crustaceans and cephalopods. During these processes they may suffer infections, open wounds and other lesions. They may die from starvation, dehydration, overheating, or from injuries sustained from fighting whilst in unattended storage pots or lost traps.
Storage and killing in restaurants, retailer and domestic environments are not yet regulated. The current practice of killing lobsters by cooking them alive in boiling water without the use of anaesthesia or pre-stunning is of particular concern. The animals struggle violently, even shedding their limbs or tearing at their own bodies with their claws. It is no longer safe to assume that this behaviour is reflex and involves no pain.
Eyestalk ablation in prawns and shrimps – the removal of the eyestalk, which triggers the maturing of the ovaries – is commonplace when farming them but is accepted by scientists to be both ‘controversial’ and ‘cruel’.
Currently, the Animal Welfare Act excludes invertebrates but it states that protection can be extended if ‘the appropriate national authority is satisfied, on the basis of scientific evidence, that animals of the kind concerned are capable of experiencing pain or suffering’.
We believe there is sufficient evidence that cephalopods and decapod crustaceans are not only capable of experiencing pain, but do actually experience it. And the European law that governs research laboratories already does extend protection to cephalopods. It states: ‘there is scientific evidence of their ability to experience pain, suffering, distress and lasting harm’.
Decapod crustaceans have the sensory receptors – nociceptors – necessary to respond to aversive or noxious stimuli, and research at the Queen’s University Belfast School of Biological Sciences has found that they also behave in ways that indicate pain.
Other countries already protect these invertebrates.
We are calling on the British government to extend the Animal Welfare Act to protect decapod crustaceans and cephalopods.
* All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2406 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 2nd – 3rd June 2014. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).