Oxford Green Week

Oxford Green Week (17-25 June 2017; http://www.oxfordgreenweek.org) is a city-wide summer festival that uses culture, creativity and community to encourage people to take action against climate change. These three events will be of interest to readers:

An evening of eco-friendly eating with celebrity vegetarian chef Shane Jordan; Weds 21 June, 6-8pm, Vaults & Garden Cafe; £20 plus booking fee:
http://oxfordgreenweek.org/events/midsummer-nights-feast-evening-eco-friendly-eating/

Thinking Food Outside the Box (a presentation by writer Colin Tudge and Dr Monika Zurek of the Environmental Change Institute); Thu 22 June, 6-8pm, Turl Street Kitchen; free:
http://oxfordgreenweek.org/events/thinking-food-outside-box/

A screening of Before the Flood, Leonardo DiCaprio’s documentary film about climate change; Fri 23 June, 6-8pm, Oxford Brookes University, Headington; free:
http://oxfordgreenweek.org/events/before-the-flood-documentary-screening/

Paul Appleby

Animal welfare in the General Election manifestos

In what has been dubbed the ‘Brexit Election’, animal welfare appears to be well down the list of issues in the 2017 General Election campaign. Nevertheless, it does make an appearance in the manifestos of the three main political parties in England. Here is a summary of what they say.

The Conservative Party devote an entire paragraph to animal welfare in their 88-page manifesto, so it’s worth quoting it in full:

“We will continue to take action to improve animal welfare. We will implement our proposed reforms on pet sales and licensing and will make CCTV recording in slaughterhouses mandatory. As we leave the European Union, we can take early steps to control the export of live farm animals for slaughter.”

Precisely what improvements to animal welfare the Conservatives have made since returning to government in 2010 is hard to tell. Even a proposed ban on the use of wild animals in circuses has yet to be introduced. Making the use of CCTV in slaughterhouses mandatory would be a welcome move, but only if it is independently (and regularly) monitored. The Food Standards Agency estimates that at least 90% of animals are now slaughtered on premises with CCTV, but Animal Aid have had no difficulty in finding evidence of lawbreaking during their undercover investigations at UK slaughterhouses. As for live farm animal exports, noting that the government can legislate to control the export trade when Britain leaves the EU is not the same as saying that they will do so.

Two paragraphs later comes the following commitment that will dismay animal lovers:

“We will grant a free vote, on a government bill in government time, to give parliament the opportunity to decide the future of the Hunting Act.”

If, as expected, the Conservatives are returned to government, this will almost certainly result in the repeal of the Hunting Act and the return of fox hunting.

The Labour Party devote two pages to the environment and animal welfare in their 128-page manifesto. “Labour’s vision is for the UK to lead the world with high animal welfare standards in the wild, in farming and for domestic animals”, a laudable aim that includes proposals to:

– Increase the maximum sentence for those convicted of committing animal cruelty (although they don’t say by how much)
– Promote cruelty-free animal husbandry and consult on ways to ensure better enforcement of agreed standards
– Prohibit the third-party sale of puppies
– Introduce and enforce a total ban on ivory trading in the UK, and
– Stop the badger cull.

They also claim that “only a Labour government will maintain the bans” on fox hunting, deer hunting and hare coursing.

The Liberal Democrats also promise to introduce stronger penalties for animal cruelty offences in their 100-page manifesto, specifying that they would increase the maximum sentencing from six months to five years. They also pledge to:

– Introduce a ban on caged hens (a welcome move that would prohibit the so-called ‘enhanced’ cages that have largely replaced battery cages for laying hens)
– Clamp down on illegal pet imports through legal identification requirements for online sales
– Minimise the use of animals in scientific experimentation, funding research into alternatives (over the last 10 years, the total number of experiments on animals in the UK has increased by more than one-third to over 4 million in 2015)
– Improve standards of animal health and welfare in agriculture by updating farm animal welfare codes and promoting the responsible stewardship of antibiotic drugs
– Ensure that future trade deals require high animal welfare standards for food imports
– Develop safe, effective, humane and evidence-based ways of controlling bovine TB, including by investing to produce workable vaccines, and
– Provide greater resources for international actions to tackle illegal and unsustainable trade in wildlife, ivory and fish.

Of the smaller parties, the Green Party manifesto promises to introduce “an Environmental Protection Act to safeguard and restore our environment, protect and enhance biodiversity, promote sustainable food and farming, and ensure animal protection” but without providing any details. The UK Independence Party devote two pages of their manifesto to ‘Food Production and Animal Welfare’. Not surprisingly given their opposition to UK membership of the European Union, UKIP pledge to ban the export of animals for fattening and slaughter, pointing out that “should Britain stay in the single market, we would not be able to prevent the export and import of live animals … and end the unnecessary suffering this causes”. UKIP also promise to triple the maximum jail sentences for cruelty to animals and impose lifetime bans on owning animals for those convicted of animal cruelty, install CCTV in every abattoir, and ‘tightly regulate’ animal testing.

Although promises made in manifestos are often quietly ‘put aside’ after an election, they do provide an indication of how seriously the various parties take animal welfare issues. They can also be used to hold the government to account after the election, likewise the opposition parties if they choose to support (or fail to oppose) policies at odds with their stated aims. A guide to the political parties’ positions on key issues, including links to their manifestos, can be found on the BBC website at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election-2017-39955886.

Paul Appleby

Wild Honey

Wild Honey is an organic health store at 111 Magdalen Road, East Oxford, located in the premises formerly occupied by the Magic Café, with another branch at 12 South Parade, Summertown. The store was recently voted Best UK Independent Retailer 2017 at the Natural Food Show. As well as stocking a wide range of organic produce, much of it produced locally, Wild Honey has a weekly free taster session (every Thursday from 3pm) and regular visits from a nutritionist. Both stores are open seven days per week: opening times and other details can be found at https://www.wildhoneylove.com/. (Thanks to Natasha Williams for the information, who writes: “I was very impressed. The store has a selection of fresh veg, the regular health food foodstuffs and quite a large range of other household / beauty / personal stuff.”)

Paul Appleby

Urge your election candidates to protect existing animal welfare legislation

Animal Aid are calling on supporters to contact the General Election candidates in their parliamentary constituency, asking them to pledge to protect existing animal welfare laws, including the 44 EU laws pertaining to animal welfare, and to strengthen them wherever possible.

The wording of their suggested letter or email to candidates is as follows:

“I am writing to ask you, as my prospective parliamentary candidate, to
pledge to protect animal welfare legislation should you be elected to
parliament.

Currently, there are 44 EU laws pertaining to animal welfare, and I am
concerned that with Brexit, some of the directives may be weakened,
while the regulations will simply cease to apply unless the government
legislates for them to remain.

The laws cover many issues, including setting standards on the way
animals are farmed, transported and slaughtered, ensuring eggs from
caged hens are labelled as such, and banning cosmetic testing on
animals. These are important issues, and hard-won protections for
animals are now in danger.

Will you pledge to fight to maintain current animal welfare standards as
a minimum should you be elected? Will you further pledge to strengthen
legislation and protection for animals wherever possible, to include,
for example, making independently monitored CCTV mandatory for all
slaughterhouses?

These issues are important to me, and I will consider seriously all
responses from candidates when I come to vote on June 8th.”

For further details and to send the email to candidates go to https://www.animalaid.org.uk/general-election/

Paul Appleby

Unlocking the Cage

The Oxford Student Vegetarian Society will show the documentary film Unlocking the Cage, about US animal rights lawyer Steve Wise’s attempt to obtain personhood rights for chimpanzees, on Thursday 18 May, 7pm, at Harris Lecture Theatre, Oriel College, Oxford. Details at https://www.facebook.com/events/1910068955939320/

Hire of the film was funded by VERO (Voice for Ethical Research at Oxford) who posted this blog about Unlocking the Cage when it was first scheduled for screening in Oxford https://voiceforethicalresearchatoxford.wordpress.com/2017/02/13/unlocking-the-cage/

‘Vegan team’ to play in the Football League

“Cheltenham, Swindon, Newport – You’re going to eat hummus at the New Lawn next season as Forest Green Rovers have been promoted to the Football League.” So raved Bob Hunt of BBC Radio Gloucestershire as the so-called ‘vegan team’ claimed a place in Football League Division Two next season with a 3-1 win over Tranmere Rovers at Wembley Stadium in the National League play-off final on Sunday 14 May (http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/39850996). Forest Green Rovers are located in Nailsworth (which, with a population of 5,794, will become the smallest town ever to host an English Football League club) and the catering at their ground is entirely vegan in keeping with the principles of owner Dale Vince, CEO of green energy provider Ecotricity. Nailsworth also boasts a vegan restaurant Asparagasm (see the post dated 17 April 2017) and two independent health food stores.

Paul Appleby

Vegetarian café in Wallingford

There is a new vegan/vegetarian café in Wallingford called Ribizli (https://www.ribizli.co.uk/). The Happy Cow website describes Ribizli as a modern café specializing in gluten-free and dairy-free cakes, most of which are suitable for vegans. The café is at 53 St Mary’s Street, and is open 5 days a week, Thursday to Monday inclusive, 10am to 5pm (4pm on Sundays). Further along the street at number 52 is The Health Store Wallingford (http://www.thehealthstorewallingford.co.uk/), an independent retailer “staffed by local ladies with a wealth of knowledge of the health food industry”, which is open Monday to Friday 9.30am to 4.30pm, Saturday 9.30am to 5pm. (Thanks to Anne-Marie Bevan for the information.)

Paul Appleby

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