Animal Rights (1/34): assessing the Green Party of England and Wales’ policies

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This is the first of my blogs aimed at noticing amendments that may be useful to the Green Party of England and Wales’ main public-facing document, the Policies for a Sustainable Society (PfSS). The full set of 34 policy chapters can be found here.

Starting opinions and personal thoughts before reading the chapter
The Green Party and the environmentalist movement in general overemphasises the importance of individuals taking action through lifestyle decisions around diet. The emphasis should more clearly be on the actions of unethical treatment of animals within the meat industry and the emphasis on mass-market meat production rather than localised sustainable and ethically-reared meat. I have no ethical qualms about the killing of certain animals and the eating of meat (this has occurred for millenia for practical survival reasons that I think we should not forget), but I do have concerns about the overall environmental effect of the meat industry, particularly around deforestation to provide grazing land and the effect of methane from grazing stock. Clearly it is also healthier to eat less red meat within diets, but I do not think this is something that should be mandated by the state. My knowledge of other animal rights issues is quite limited and so I am looking forward to reading this chapter to learn some things.

Most important thing I learned
The Five Freedoms of the Animal Welfare Act are:
1. Freedom from Hunger and Thirst (by ready access to fresh water and diet to maintain health and vigor).
2. Freedom from Discomfort (by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area).
3. Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease (by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment).
4. Freedom to Express Normal Behavior (by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind).
5. Freedom from Fear and Distress (by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering).

Bulletpoint policies

  • Introduce Animal Rights Officers in local authorities
  • Introduce clear labelling on all animal-derived food products stating all facts about animal treatment and method of killing
  • Phase out factory farming in favour of small free-range units
  • When slaughter does take place it is done so as to cause least suffering to the animal
  • Slaughtering to be monitored without prejudice towards minority religious and cultural groups
  • Ban on the use of GMOs in animal feed and all genetic modification of animals
  • Desire for internal rules on import restrictions from country’s with lower animal welfare standards
  • Minimising of live transport of animals
  • Prioritising of smaller, local abattoirs and improve conditions
  • Mandatory CCTV in slaughterhouses
  • Extend the Animal Welfare Act to cover all fishing activities, including an end to overfishing, prohibition of intensive fish farming and restrict the use of fishmeal for animal feed
  • Support for a progressive transition from meat-based diets, and organic and stockfree farming
  • Ensuring that vegetarian and vegan options are widely available in public sector establishments and included in catering certificates and food technology courses
  • Illegal to import or sell foie gras
  • Ban import, export and sale of fur
  • Continue prohibition of ivory, reptile skins and whale oil
  • Ban on all experimentation and research that harms animals and transfer of government research funds to non-animal technologies
  • Replace use of animals and animal material in educational settings, but support for use of animal cadavers/material when these have been ethically sourced
  • Introduction of a two-tier system of dog-licensing [breeding and non-breeding], licensing of all animal breeders and dog owners, subsidised spaying and neutering, implementation of animal warden schemes, and prohibition on import of exotic animals
  • Creation of a national register of convicted animal-cruelty offenders
  • Ban on sale of young puppies and kittens unless the mother is present
  • Animal patents will not be granted
  • “Pest control” redefined to “wildlife management and control” and implementation of a wildlife management and control protocol
  • Extend the 1911 Protection of Animals Act to protect captive and non-captive animals from unnecessary suffering
  • Opposition to all blood-sports
  • Amend Firearms Act to prohibit the use and private ownership of firearms and lethal weapons except on registered premises
  • Prohibition of the import of all animals for circuses and re-homing of all existing circus animals
  • Abolition of zoos and private collections of animals except where they are of benefit to the animal concerned
  • End the exploitation of animals in horse racing, greyhound racing and all situations where animals are commercially raced including immediate ban on the the whip in horse racing and non-linear tracks in greyhound racing
  • Single regulatory authority for each commercial racing sport with strict welfare standards (detailed in the policy)
  • High level of compulsory levy imposed on all betting to be used solely for welfare improvements
  • Endeavour internationally to initiate and develop an Animal Rights Division within the UN
  • Opposition to all lethal and harmful uses and treatments of cetaceans and any move to end the current moratorium on commercial whaling
  • Abolition of research into xenotransplantation

What I need to find more out about
GMOs. I am way too ignorant of this issue.
Xenotransplantation, for the same reason. Will it really unleash “an epidemic amongst the human population”?
Why are we just calling to minimise live export of animals? Can’t it just be banned?

What I disagree with
The vagueness of this in AR411: “The Green Party will support a progressive transition from diets dominated by meat and other animal products to healthier diets based on plant foods, through the use of research, education and economic measures…” What economic measures are these exactly?
AR427 seeks to abolish zoos. I think there is a genuine need for some animals to be homed in zoos and that this policy should be more to do with emphasis. Animals in zoos should be predominantly those that need sanctuary rather than simply those that zoos want to place in captivity for our entertainment or enjoyment.

What I think needs amending or adding
Specifics about what economic measures we would (or wouldn’t) use to transition away from meat-dominated diets. A meat tax? Or something more subtle?
AR418 could be read as contradictory of itself.
AR419 – is there a less cumbersome way of saying “those animals who are chosen as companions to the human race”. It is also unclear which animals this includes and excludes.
I would change AR427 as I think its emphasis is wrong.
I might change the hyperbolic aspects of AR 431 which I think are unnecessary.
A position on lab-grown meat, which could be market-viable in a matter of months.

The policy that I think needs most pushing publicly
Mandatory CCTV in all slaughterhouses.
Next up: Chapter 2 (Climate Change)

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