On the Pulse Trail at CAT

During a recent holiday in North Wales we visited the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT; http://www.cat.org.uk), near Machynlleth. CAT is an environmental charity that researches and promotes sustainable living. Their interactive exhibits are spread over seven acres and include the Pulse Trail, which highlights the positive contribution that pulses (the dried seeds of legumes such as lentils and chickpeas) can make to feeding the world population in a sustainable and environmentally-friendly manner. The photos below show two posters from the trail, explaining how growing pulses is a much more efficient use of land than rearing cattle, and how producing a kilogram of chickpeas requires only a fraction of the water needed to produce a kilogram of beef.

Paul Appleby

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Animals are sentient beings under EU law, and should be so under UK law as well

Compassion in World Farming have launched a petition to ensure that animals are recognised as “sentient beings” and afforded the same level of protection under UK law as they currently are under EU law after Britain leaves the European Union.

Under current European law, animals are recognised as sentient beings, acknowledging their ability to feel pain, suffer and also experience joy. As sentient beings, full regard must be given to their welfare when creating new legislation or regulations. Securing this status for animals was a massive step forward for animal welfare when the legislation was first adopted in 1997, and subsequently consolidated in the Lisbon Treaty of 2009. The Repeal Bill, which moves all European law into UK law once Britain leaves the EU, has left out this important protection, omitting both the recognition of animals as sentient beings, and the requirement for governments to pay “full regard” to their welfare. Thus, once the UK leaves the EU, we cannot be sure that future Governments will still treat animals as sentient beings.

The petition to Secretary of State for the Environment Michael Gove MP reads as follows:
“The EU Treaty recognises animals as sentient beings. Once the UK leaves the EU, we cannot be sure that future Governments will still treat animals as sentient beings – so we demand that the Treaty clause is brought into UK law. Please ensure the Repeal Bill recognises animals as sentient beings, and requires that full regard be paid to their welfare in the formulation of policy.”

To sign the petition go to: http://www.ciwf.org.uk/repeal

Paul Appleby

OxVeg member’s 65-mile cycle ride for Animal Aid

Congratulations to OxVeg media rep Paul Freestone who recently completed a 65-mile cycle ride to celebrate becoming an OAP and to raise money for Animal Aid. Paul was interviewed about the cycle ride on BBC Radio Oxford on Monday 10 July. The interview is one hour and 42 minutes into the programme at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0572wzp

If you would like to make a donation to Animal Aid in recognition of Paul’s effort go to: https://www.animalaid.org.uk/go/Paul

Vegan MPs

The recent General Election threw up plenty of surprises, and several milestones were passed. A record 201 female MPs were elected, for the first time a majority of MPs were educated at comprehensive schools, and the first ‘Darren’ took his seat in the House of Commons.

What is less well known about the new MP for Bristol North West, Darren Jones, is that he is a vegan (http://www.bristolpost.co.uk/news/bristol-news/who-is-darren-jones-election-56940). Mr Jones attributes his veganism to neighbouring MP and fellow vegan Kerry McCarthy, who retained her Bristol East seat (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kerry_McCarthy). Further afield, long standing vegan Chris Williamson regained the marginal seat of Derby North (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Williamson_(politician)) and, completing the vegan parliamentary line-up, Christina Rees, Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, retained her Neath seat (http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/politics/11-facts-about-christina-rees-12599722).

All four vegan MPs are members of the Labour Party, and they might be expected to play an active role in the All Party Parliamentary Group on Vegetarianism and Veganism (http://vegappg.org.uk/). Christina Rees and Kerry McCarthy were officers of the group in the previous parliament, along with the anti-hunting Conservative MP for Crawley Henry Smith, and Green Party Life Peer Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb.

Paul Appleby

Oxford Vegan Action

Oxford Vegan Action (www.facebook.com/OxfordVeganAction) is a friendly Oxford based animal rights organisation, holding both Earthlings Experience and general outreach events. Details of the next Earthlings Experience in Oxford City Centre on Sunday 23 July, 11am to 3:30pm, can be found here: http://www.facebook.com/events/1898359917046006/?ti=as

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

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