Report from the Rally for nature on the 9th of December 2014 - Organised by the RSPB’s Mark Avery, and supported by the League Against Cruel Sports and four other conservation groups including the Wildlife Trusts, Butterfly Conservation, The Mammal Society and the Ramblers Association.
The purpose of the rally was to give the concerned population a chance to tell their MPs how they felt about the decline in UK wildlife, and to ask that time and effort is given to developing a Nature and Well-being Law that will put UK wild fauna at the centre of policy making.
Nature is in trouble, from the humble bumble bee to the iconic birds of prey, and it is simply intolerable that some think it is acceptable to erase animals from our countryside in pursuit of blood sporting activities. The rally had speakers from the charities concerned and also representatives from four different parties. Sir John Randall (Con), Kerry McCarthy (Lab), Julian Huppert (LD) and Caroline Lucas (Green) were ready to take questions from the floor, and it was clear for all of the politicians to see that good animal welfare is fast becoming a voting issue.
Although the RSPB has a neutral stance on legal shooting, the MPs were left in no doubt that they are taking a strong line against the killing of raptors by game keepers who are protecting intensively farmed birds for shooting. Horrific footage from Aberdeenshire in 2012 is a reflection of what is happening across the country. A gamekeeper, working on Kildrummy Estate near Alford, was found guilty of killing and injuring protected birds of prey. Hidden cameras were set up by the RSPB as part of scientific research into how a Larsen, and a larger multi-catch trap, was being used on the land. The footage showed George Mutch taking a goshawk out of a trap and hitting it repeatedly with a stick.
This horrific act of wanton cruelty was punished in the courts, but perhaps it’s time the estates that employ these people were punished too. It’s not enough to devolve responsibility on to the lowliest of workers and allow the rich estates to simply turn a blind eye. The RSPB has hardened its stance against illegal killing of wild birds by calling for licensing of grouse shoots, and they are calling on the shooting community to step up to the mark and see that their employees are not persecuting birds of prey on their behalf.
The biggest problem lies with the Tory MPs themselves. Many people who attended the rally were sceptical about speaking to their MPs because a large proportion of them have stakes in, or actually own, shooting estates themselves. The former Minister for the Environment, Richard Benyon, MP for Newbury, who owns a shooting estate in Berkshire, was deputy head of DEFRA when in 2013 Natural England gave secret permission to destroy buzzard eggs and nests to preserve game birds. Buzzards are a fully protected species in the UK, and they are just recovering from the brink of extinction with 40,000 breeding pairs, against a backdrop of 53 million pheasants that are reared on game farms for shoots. This information was only made public after the RSPB made a freedom of information request to Natural England. NE refused to disclose the whereabouts of the petitioning estates, citing public safety as the reason.
The National Gamekeepers Organisation (NGO) was closely involved in winning the licences and had threatened Natural England with judicial review if they were not granted. "We believe the long-standing licensing process was correctly used in this case," said a spokesman for the NGO. "A few buzzards had been consistently killing a large number of pheasants.”
Jeff Knott, the RSPB's bird of prey expert, said: "The buzzard has full legal protection, so why are we undermining this when all the available evidence shows they are not a significant source of loss of pheasant chicks."
And it would seem the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) are in agreement on this occasion. Their independent study found that, on average, 1-2% of pheasant poults released were taken by all birds of prey, and a third of all pheasants were killed on the roads.
The rally was for our birds of prey, but the threat to UK wild life doesn’t end with birds. Any animal deemed a threat to a shoot is targeted on an eye watering scale. In fact the wanton killing of badgers, foxes, mink, rats and corvids is unprecedented in modern times. Animals are snared, gassed poisoned, hunted, shot and drowned all to protect those unfortunate creatures who are born to be blasted to pieces for sport. Some of our finest countryside is littered with lead shot, which although banned, is still widely used and is highly toxic to animals and birds.
Tuesday’s rally showed there is strong public support for our natural world and at last there is hope that we can give nature a voice. Progress is always slow, but there is hope, and with a change of government in 2015 we can look forward to a brighter future for the wild animals with whom we share this Island.
Warning graphic content:
Commentary: In April 2012, the League Against Cruel Sports’ CEO, Joe Duckworth, posted a video blog on Hunt Havoc. He spoke of hunters conspiring to ignore the Hunting Act and also the total disregard they have for other people, their own horses and dogs and domestic as well as wild animals.
The League’s video showed scenes of foxes mauled by packs of hounds, and those dogs the hunters profess to love so much, were filmed on railway lines and running out of control on UK roads. One video clip showed an injured hound laying on train tracks, the poor thing lifting its head but obviously incapable, through some injury, of getting up under its own steam. The approaching train was only yards away, the driver frantically blowing the engine’s whistle. It is illegal to trespass on the railway with fines running into thousands of pounds, yet who has ever heard of a hunt prosecution for this kind of dangerous and antisocial behaviour?
Sometimes the hounds are injured and have been killed by cars as they rampage across main roads stopping traffic and causing mayhem. This makes a lie of the Countryside Alliance claim that hunts lay trails and act always within the law. No hunter in his right mind would lay a trail along a railway line or across a busy main road. Those dogs were following a live fox scent, otherwise they would have been nowhere in the vicinity of a main road or train track. When a fox hound is deemed too old to hunt he/she is slaughtered without a qualm. The hunter’s horse is treated little better and it is plain to see that those who hunt have no feeling for other human beings or their living tools of trade. In January 2014 a fox hound superfluous to needs, later named Ffion by his rescuers, was found battered and dying on a rubbish tip in Cork. He was rescued and nursed back to health by the Dog Action Welfare Group. His injuries were severe and he was barely alive when he was found.
The bad behaviour doesn’t stop at allowing hounds to run amok on roads and railway lines, often private land and gardens are invaded as the dogs pursue their quarry and harmless family pets are often savaged and killed. In one such incident in December 2011, Moppet, an 18-year-old deaf tabby, was set upon by a pack of hounds which was running through land belonging to her owners. Moppet’s corpse was returned to its devastated owners in an empty dog food bag two days after by a hunter who claimed the cat had caused he own death because she’d panicked and run away. He said the incident was ‘regrettable’. The incident was reported to the police, but after an investigation officers decided to take no further action.
In 2011, an anti-hunt Cotswold resident decided to make a film ‘A Minority Pastime’ in which she exposed the lies, corruption and violence of the hunting set. She set out to investigate hunting antisocial behaviour which appears to be the norm rather than the exception for those who like to kill for fun. The film exposed a dark and dangerous reality. Masked gangs of thugs who accompany the hunts are seen threatening and bullying ordinary people who dare speak out against their cruelty. Today little has changed.
Ten years after the hunting Act came into force, hunters are still hunting foxes and their bully boys are still hunting people. Only last month, a hunt saboteur was ridden down deliberately by a hunter on horseback. She sustained seven broken ribs and a punctured lung. The foot followers delayed the ambulance by blocking the road.
In another hunt expose by the League, narrated by Bill Oddie, ordinary country people were interviewed.
No one is safe from these thugs, and it seems the police do nothing to stop them either. In fact, nine times out of ten the police appear to be complicit in the law breaking by not following up on claims made by the hunt monitors and saboteurs.
Just last week the Surrey police were involved in an incident involving the Surrey Union Hunt. The saboteurs claimed a roe deer doe had been savaged by hounds. Instead of investigating the incident properly, the police sided with the hunters, claiming the deer had injured herself on barbed wire after being chased by the saboteurs.
They went so far as to issue an official statement which the saboteurs said was untrue and had obviously been hastily concocted by the hunt themselves. As if that wasn’t bias enough, the police arrested four saboteurs for aggravated trespass when the left the foot path to go the aid of the stricken deer.
To add insult to injury, the evidence, in the form of the dead doe, was left with the hunters to dispose of as they saw fit. No prize for guessing it was probably promptly destroyed by being recycled through the alimentary systems of their dogs.
We cannot let this situation continue. Hunters are holding the rest of us to ransom with threats and actual bodily harm. The police are not doing what they are paid to do and hunters are flouting a legal UK law, it would seem, with impunity.
What can we do?
Write to the Chief Constable of your area, your member of Parliament and your local Council and tell them enough is enough.
Join the League Against Cruel Sports.
Consider supporting Fox in Parliament. They are a small but determined group of labour supporters who lobby MPs for the hunting Act to be strengthened to include jail time for those who hunt out with the law.
Vote Labour in 2015. No other government will look out for UK wildlife.
Speak up for those who have no voice and refuse to be intimidated into silence by those who kill for fun. It’s time to put an end to hunt havoc once and for all.
Sources and resources:
Why aren’t the police policing the hunters?
The pro hunting fraternity have long boasted that the ban on fox hunting is unenforceable. Many hunters brazenly admit that they are refusing to obey the law and they will carry on killing foxes as usual in the traditional way.
This is not all bravado as a significant number of fox hunters talk openly on social media with little attempt made to disguise the fact that they are going out with the specific intention of breaking the law at every conceivable opportunity, and many hours of anti-hunt monitoring footage supports the facts that hunters are still killing foxes and getting away with it.
So why is the Hunting Act not working? Is it really a worthless piece of legislation, and should we indeed call for it to be repealed as the Countryside Alliance claims is necessary? I wondered long and hard about this as I watched two foxes playing at the bottom of my garden.
Surely with all of the video evidence and the open admissions that many hunters intend to keep on breaking the law, it must be fairly easy to get quite a few good convictions. The physical harm meted out by the hunt thugs to the monitors and saboteurs alone ought to warrant a couple of collars being felt at least a couple of times a week, yet this isn’t what is happening.
Animal charities will tell us that the hunting Act IS working, and that to date there have been 340 convictions for illegal hunting. However, the Countryside Alliance says that most of those convicted have been in the lower social classes, and their convictions have been largely for poaching, hare coursing and interfering with badger setts to capture badgers for baiting.
In 2011 the League Against Cruel Sports said that in spite of providing sound evidence to Devon and Cornwall police that illegal hunting is taking place, nothing is made of their reports. Others have also claimed that the Devon & Cornwall police take so long to follow up the evidence that the time frame for a prosecution to go ahead is exceeded. On other occasions the Crown Prosecution Service decides against taking action.
In May of this year, the League Against Cruel Sports contacted the Devon & Cornwall police with evidence of illegal hunting. By July, and in spite of numerous follow up enquiries the police had not responded. The League was left with no option but to bring a private prosecution against certain hunt members after Devon and Cornwall police failed to deal with the evidence supplied by the monitors.
The League obtained written independent legal advice and it was deemed that there was sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction and that it would be in the public interest to prosecute. *Summonses were served alleging an offence under Section 1 of the Hunting Act 2004 in relation to an incident which occurred on the 26th March 2014 when the Lamerton Hunt met at Holdstrong Bungalow, near Lydford in Devon. Joint master George Moyse, huntsman David Lewis, whipper-in Steve Craddock and terrier men Gilmore Lewis, Stephen Mitchell and Wayne Bartlett of the Lamerton Hunt are now summoned to appear at Plymouth Magistrates' Court on 21st November 2014.
The League has also lodged a formal complaint about the actions of Devon and Cornwall police with the Chief Constable, Shaun Sawyer.
I decided to look into why it is so difficult for our police forces to catch fox hunters hunting foxes or take action against the thugs who injure saboteurs and monitors. What I discovered is quite an eye opener into the way some police forces interpret and uphold UK law. In fact, evidence supplied by the Hunt Saboteurs Association states that most certainly some police officers are hunt sympathisers who actually ride with the hunts and who may be involved in hunting activities.
A statement made by the Hunt Saboteurs which I have copied verbatim and posted below may explain why the police are so reluctant to take action against people breaking the hunting Act
“Nearly a decade ago, on the eve of the Hunting Act coming into force, an article appeared in The Observer in February 2005. In summary, it detailed how Britain's most senior police officers raised grave concerns that the imminent hunting ban was unenforceable and would erode morale. Records of meetings and in-house emails showed the level of concern and confusion among senior officers, and that any attempt to apprehend those who decided to continue hunting had been dismissed as impractical.
An internal document circulated to senior members of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) revealed that forces would give the ban a 'low priority'. 'This has not been afforded high priority in the National Policing Plan,' the document says. Briefing notes for the Chief Constables' Council, dated 27 January 2005, reminded them the offence was not 'accorded high priority'. Details of police action at hunt meetings revealed the offence was regarded as nothing more serious than 'low-level wildlife crimes', dealt with by fixed penalties.
However, it was not only that the hunting ban had been afforded low priority across forces that was of concern in the article. Another concern outlined in material from Devon and Cornwall and Avon and Somerset Constabularies - two forces with a high number of hunts in their areas - included worries that police forces were fundamentally weakened by officers who sympathised with fox hunting, or were hunters themselves. One email from a Devon and Cornwall inspector detailed how he dreamed the ban would be postponed, before waking up despairing that foxhunting would be outlawed.
In the minutes of meetings held by officers in hunting hotspots such as the West Country, officers from Avon and Somerset admitted that they 'are not secure as an organisation... e.g. police officers [are] involved in hunts'. In Devon and Cornwall, which covers at least 33 hunts, there were only six designated hunt officers to enforce the ban.”
As long ago as the eve of the hunting ban, it was reported in the Guardian that concern had also spread to the judiciary, with at least five magistrates choosing to resign rather than administer the ban.
This sorry state of affairs cannot be allowed to continue. The British justice system has traditionally enjoyed a respect second to none, yet it would appear that those employed to administer the law are themselves complicit in breaking it. A recent review undertaken by Mr Steven Wooler, QC, which was commissioned by the RSPCA into its handling of hunting prosecutions, vindicated the Society, but Mr Wooler added an advisory note.
He suggested that perhaps in the interests of saving the charity money, it would be better to let the police and the CPS take on the hunting cases. The Countryside Alliance has made much in support of this but in the light of what we now know, it is not difficult to understand why.
If the police themselves are hunt sympathisers and the CPS doesn’t take the cases, it’s as good as a ticket to ride. Perhaps those of us against cruel sports should now complain to the Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer before a handful of Devon & Cornwall officers bring them all into disrepute.
I recently lost my dog. She was my companion and my friend for five and a half years. There is no doubt in my mind, that during our time together, the feelings of love and respect I had for her were reciprocated fully. I was told that she would not move from behind the door when I went out and she was always so happy to see me when I returned. She liked to be near me and she would move from room to room so that she could keep me in her sight. We did not speak the same language, but that did not mean we didn’t communicate. We did, in everything we did together. Those of you who are reading this who have had an animal friend, will know exactly what I mean when I say that animals have the ability to feel love, and conversely they are also capable of feeling much grief at the loss of a friend, just the same grief that I have felt since my dog died.
Psychological studies have been conducted in to how gregarious animals behave with their other group members, and it has been shown that non humans do indeed experience rich and deep attachments with others. And why not? After all, WE experience the loss of a friend or family member and WE feel mental pain at the break up of a close family unit. We are human, but we are also animals, and it is arrogant and ignorant to assume that we are the only sentient creatures on the planet.
American anthropologist, Barbara King, has written many books and articles on the subject of animal emotions and grief. In her latest book, How Animals Grieve, she tells the story of two ducks who were rescued from a Foie Gras factory. They bonded almost immediately, and they lived together for four years. When one of the ducks had to be euthanised, the other was allowed to watch his friend die. The surviving animal saw that something was different in the stillness of his companion. He went over and lay for a long time with his neck across his friend’s neck. For weeks he would not mix with the other ducks and he exhibited many of the same emotions attributed to human grief.
Among the most famous stories of animal grief are those of Hachiko, an Akita who for ten years after his human companion's death looked for him at the same train station in Tokyo, Japan, and of Bobby, a Skye Terrier, who took up residence for 14 years near the grave of his human companion, John Gray. When Greyfriar's Bobby died in 1872 he was buried in the churchyard close to his human friend.
James Honeyborn, who has been filming elephants for 20 years, wrote in the Mail in January last year about the grief he witnessed in an elephant for her dead calf.
“I am certain that the behaviour I have witnessed so often, stems from real emotion.”
He went on to describe the heart-breaking sight of a baby elephant in Borneo, nudging and nuzzling the body of its dead mother. The baby was in obvious distress and bewilderment.
“On a research vessel in the waters off Greece's Amvrakikos Gulf, Joan Gonzalvo watched a female bottlenose dolphin in obvious distress. Over and over again, the dolphin pushed a newborn calf, almost certainly her own, away from the observers' boat and against the current with her snout and pectoral fins.
It was as if she wanted to nudge her baby into motion—but to no avail. The baby was dead. Floating under direct sunlight on a hot day, its body quickly began to decay; occasionally the mother removed pieces of dead skin and loose tissue from the corpse.
When the female dolphin continued to behave in this way into a second day, Gonzalvo and his colleagues on the boat grew concerned: in addition to fussing with the calf, she was not eating normally, behaviour that could be risky for her health, given dolphins' high metabolism.
Three other dolphins from the Amvrakikos population of about 150 approached the pair, but none disrupted the mother's behaviour or followed suit.” http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/when-animals-mourn/
How can we define grief in a different species from our own? With some animals it’s easier than with others. For example, we are more easily attuned to the animals with whom we share our homes, but what of those animals on our farms or in our zoos, laboratories and marinas?
I found many online articles about separation anxiety in lambs and calves, and indeed cows have been known to walk for miles around a field searching and calling out for the offspring they will never see again. We are told the animal will get over the loss, it’s only temporary and anyway how can it be real suffering, it’s only an animal after all? We are also accused by the less sensitive in society of being anthropomorphic if we persist in our ideas that animals might possibly feel grief and sorrow as we do. And here lies the problem; we have no way of knowing or proving that an animal feels sad other than by observation of his/her behaviour, and most of us don’t bother to look for the signs. A SeaWorld dolphin can’t tell us he’s sad any more than one of Owen Paterson’s badgers can tell us he is afraid and misses his family. We may attempt to assess the humaneness of the UK government’s present badger culling method, but no attempt is made to assess the grief and the desolation the badger survivor may be feeling at the loss of his/her cubs and his/her extended family.
Being human is to be empathic, and being empathic is to want to find out if our actions are causing pain for others. Scientists involved in assessing animal emotions have come up with a crude assessment tool.
1. Do the animals spend time together beyond survival orientated necessity?
2. When one animal dies, does the other alter his/her normal behaviour pattern/routine?
Animal behaviourist, Mark Bekoff, postulates in his book, Animal Matters, that the evolution of love between animals is essential for their survival. The cooperation in the nurturing of offspring, providing food and protecting a home is no different from human behaviour when we find a partner with whom we choose to spend our lives. It follows naturally that to love something living is to know grief when we are permanently parted from that object of our love. Animal grief results from losing a significant other in much the same way it does for human grief.
As the scientific study of non-human emotions advances, what is revealed must alter our attitude and soften the way we interact with other species. The impact of recognising that animals do have emotions that are very similar to our own will change not only their lives, but our lives too.
Although much of animal emotions remain a mystery to us at this present time, if we take a little time to personally consider our interactions with non-humans we will gain an insight into the lives of those who cannot protest at our treatment of them. We do animals a great disservice and we may inadvertently cause them much suffering when we deny their ability to feel mental pain and grief.
In 2013 the Tory government informed the public that they intended to roll out a badger cull across the UK after trialling two areas to test the humaneness of their chosen culling method. Free shooting they said, that’s the way to do it. Trained marksmen, they said, and monitors and plenty of humanely killed badgers, and an end to the farmer’s misery of bovine tuberculosis. And on that wonderful day, our farmers can send their cattle off across the sea to goodness knows what horrific fate awaits them in continental slaughterhouses in the sound knowledge that they have not only eradicated bTB forever, but also most of Britain’s badgers.
But the good people of the UK had different ideas. NO they said, it’s cruel and it won’t work they said, and 300,000 of them signed a petition which the Government, in their arrogance, ignored. Scientists and other wildlife experts also said STOP, this isn’t right. This is so wrong and it will make things worse. But the Tories still wouldn’t listen, even to their own exert panel.
And ever since then we have been fighting to save our badgers.
August 16th 2014 saw the final march for badgers before The Badger Trust takes DEFRA to the High Court on August the 21st, for crimes against our stripy friends. Two hundred and fifty people attended that final rally in Castle Park, Colchester. Know because I was one of them. I listened to the CEO of the Somerset Badger Group, Adrian Coward, as he spoke of the horrors of the killing zones. He began by explaining a theory of his, as to why Somerset (and neighbouring areas in Dorset) was selected for Owen Paterson’s pilot cull. He said those areas were chosen because large game shoots and pro hunting sympathisers own huge tracts of land there, (a land mass the size of the Isle of Wight) and it would have been easy to get permission from those landowners, because killing animals is a way of life for most people in those areas. West Somerset is stag hunting country, and although it is against the law to hunt stags with packs of dogs, the bloodlust for killing has not been in any way dampened. In fact, every other household there owns a gun it would seem. Those areas certainly were not chosen because they supported huge herds of cattle with high levels of bTB. Most of the country where the pilots took place is arable farm land; crop growing, where badgers would have been hard pushed to have had contact with livestock in any great numbers.
Just my own thought here, but perhaps that’s the reason the dead badgers were not to be tested for bTB. After all, we all now know bovine TB was initially a disease spread to badgers by infected cattle. If there are no cattle to pass on the infection to wildlife, it would be pointless testing the badgers for a disease they probably would never have contracted in the first place.
The cull officially started on the bank holiday Monday last year, and from the very outset the Government lied to the public. We were told the badgers would be killed by free shooting, yet on the second day, the patrols found cage traps, and evidence that dogs had been used to track badgers. It must be obvious to most people now that this was always the plan long before the beginning of the culling operation started.
The cullers would be expert marksmen was lie number two. Yet what turned up was a motley crew of pest controllers, hunters and lampers, who it seems, were given carte blanche to take pot shots at those poor animals. (I recall a FaceBook competition posted up on a pro hunting page before last year’s shooting began, the prize was a chance of a lifetime to shoot a badger.)
Adrian went on to talk about DEFRA’s test for humaneness, which was really what the pilots were supposed to be about. Most people thought the badgers would be killed outright, or put immediately out of their suffering. Again, we were misled. The rule of the operation was to not allow badgers to suffer for longer than five minutes. Five minutes is a long time to lie in pain with a bullet lodged in living flesh. Many badgers were shot several times, and many would have crawled back into their homes to die.
Visibly in tears and with a very shaky voice, Adrian read out an independent expert witness account of the death throes of one badger.
The animal was shot with a rifle across a water filled ditch approximately 30 metres away from the shooter. It was not killed outright, and in spite of falling to the ground it raised its head and tried to crawl away using its front legs after lying immobile for 48 seconds. It has lost the use of its back legs.
At 49 seconds the badger lifted its head. 51 seconds, it was observed lying still. It was out of view of the observer for a few seconds then at 74 seconds it raised the front part of its body again and tried to move away. At 79 seconds it lay still.
The shooter had not moved from his position at this stage, but he had fired another shot at the wounded animal. At 360 seconds the badger was again out of view, and at 470 seconds it raised its head. A third shot was fired and the animal lay still for a few seconds, then it raised its head.
At 708 seconds it was trying to move sideways, still struggling to get away. 751 seconds, raised its head. Then again out of view. 777 seconds it raised its head. It was at this point the shooter decided to walk to the bridge and approach the animal. At 814 seconds the shooter reached the badger and fired a further two shots at close range.
Do the maths, this animal was shot three times and still the shooter waited almost 13 and a half minutes before firing two more shots to put it out of its misery. This was WITH an independent observer present. Monitoring was very thin on the ground at the cull sites and perhaps it’s best not to try to imagine other scenarios where badgers were not killed within Owen Paterson’s five minute window. It is also worth mentioning that there will be NO independent observers during the trials to this year. Imagine the fear and the pain of being mortally wounded for even five minutes.
Other details were presented of two well-documented cases concerning shot badgers that were discovered by the public. One involved firearms injuries caused by high velocity ammunition. The other (which was reported to the police) may involve breaches of licence conditions; firearms certificate violations and unnecessary animal suffering.
The NFU, which also speaks for HNV Associates, denied that its members or anyone from the culling company had directed police action. The police did not actually know the sites of all of the cull zones and such was the secrecy over the boundary locations, that the legitimate duties of the RSPCA were hindered in their efforts to help potentially wounded and suffering animals. Uncertainty over the locations where shooting might be occurring presented difficulties when the RSPCA were attempting to respond to calls from the public regarding animal welfare incidents too.
For future culling, and after consultation with the police, the badger group is able to report that the NFU will definitely NOT be invited into their control room.
The situation cannot and must not be endured. It is clear that David Cameron’s government is dismissive and contemptuous of the voters in the UK. Fortunately, we have the means to replace him and his cronies in 2015. But what can be done for our wildlife while we are waiting for Election Day? This was what Adrian Coward has asked us to do.
Animal lives do matter. We share Britain with the wild animals who have their homes here; we don’t own the land or them.
Pilot Badger Culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire Report by the Independent Expert Panel Chair
Warning -This report tells it as it is.
We humans like to think of ourselves as civilised, sophisticated, intelligent beings. We live in a techno-scientific age of unparalleled discovery. We have built robots, travelled in space; we have holographic communication, three D printing. We have stood on the moon, mapped the human genome, landed a space probe on Mars and found the Higgs boson, so why so do we cling on to the traditions that promote animal cruelty?
How can it be that in 2014, some people still take pleasure in bull fighting? How can any modern human be other than outraged and appalled at the sight of an innocent bull being tormented, repeatedly stabbed and then killed? Why would crowds of people pay good money to watch an animal hacked to death? And even more disturbing, why, in 2014, would governments collude with this sick spectacle and allow such inhumane treatment of innocent animals. How can anyone with an ounce of compassion, cheer and chant and shout with a roaring voice,’ olé’ as a decorated lance is thrust into a bull’s living body?
Bullfighting is presented as a contest between the bull and the matador, who risks his life to fight a ferocious beast. It is Spanish tradition, and something many tourists feel is necessary to witness as part of their holiday. People cheer in anticipation of the fight, as if the wretched creature had any choice in the matter, or was perhaps enjoying himself in an equal contest that he actually had a chance of winning.
If people knew the truth of this sickening ritual beforehand, only the most hardened and callous animal abusers would consider a trip to the bull ring as an enjoyable part of their Spanish holiday.
There are certain preparations before every bull fight to make sure the bull never has a chance of winning. The poor animal is primed two days before the fight to make him weak.
Below is an extract from an anti-bull fighting fact sheet which was produced to inform holidaymakers who were thinking of visiting Spain. It makes harrowing reading. (http://www.stopbullfighting.org.uk/facts.htm)
“The bull is not an aggressive animal, and the reason he is angry and attempts to charge at the matador whilst in the bullring is mainly because he has been horrendously abused for the previous two days. In fact, what spectators see is not a normal, healthy bull, but a weakened, half-blinded and mentally destroyed version, whose chances of harming his tormentors is virtually nil. The bull has wet newspapers stuffed into his ears; vaseline is rubbed into his eyes to blur his vision; cotton is stuffed up his nostrils to cut off his respiration and a needle is stuck into his genitals. Also, a strong caustic solution is rubbed onto his legs which throws him off balance. This also keeps him from lying down on the ground. In addition to this, drugs are administered to pep him up or slow him down, and strong laxatives are added to his feed to further incapacitate him. He is kept in a dark box for a couple of days before he faces the ring: the purpose of this is to disorientate him. When he is let out of the box, he runs desperately towards the light at the end of the tunnel. He thinks that at last his suffering is over and he is being set free — instead, he runs into the bullring to face his killers and a jeering mob.”
EBay the giant clearing house for animal cruelty
We all know eBay, an American multi-national with its headquarters in California. EBay has been going for almost twenty years now, and it has made its founder Pierre Omidyar very rich indeed. People can, and do, sell all kinds of thing on eBay, including things that are alive, and things that are no longer alive.
EBay’s policy on living things restricts the sales to live bait for fishing, crabs and lobsters, that are live when sold but intended for human consumption, Aquarium or pond fish (up to 5cm long), snails, tadpoles or similar creatures. Aquarium or pond fish longer than 5cm may be listed with the 'Collection in person' option. Hatching eggs for some animals are permitted provided the seller offers domestic-only next-day delivery within the UK and Ireland. However, hatching eggs from endangered species, migratory or wild birds, snakes, or turtles aren't allowed.
EBay isn’t bothered about you selling dead things, as long as those dead things aren’t on eBay’s naughty list. (Oh, and you can’t sell an animal’s organs like its gall bladder. Nor can you sell animal faeces) The exception to the organ rule is the animal’s skin. You can sell an animal’s fur bearing skin and it seems EBay isn’t too fussy as to the history of the fur, as long as it’s not from cats and dogs or an endangered species.
I would doubt that anyone in the modern world is unaware these days about the suffering of animals used for fur fashion. Indeed even Mr Omidya, in his un-contactable world of his own somewhere, must be aware of the hundreds of respected animal organisations against the cruel fur trade. He can’t fail to miss the petitions with thousands of signatures asking him to do the right thing and ban fur sales on eBay. And yet he appears to be unmoved.
Whole countries have banned fur farms or have made it impossible for a trade in farming fur to succeed. Most of the civilised world has banned trapping animals for their skins too. Nearly all department stores in the UK have banned fur, with the notable exception of Harrods, who seem to prefer the money over the ethics. Mr O could hardly have failed to notice these monumental achievements for decency, and yet tens of thousands of real fur items are still offered for sale each day on eBay sites. Many items are made from animals that suffered and died years ago, (vintage fur) but that excuses nothing. A quick search brings up several adverts for second hand Persian lamb (Astrakhan). These vile coats are made from the skin of Karakul lambs, sometimes those babies are taken from their mother’s wombs, certainly all no older than 3 or 4 days when they are slaughtered for fashion.
Chinese fur is plentiful on eBay, with most of the sellers posting directly from China. Online eBay shops, thriving businesses making money from animal misery, and all channelled through Ebay’s willing ports.
Selling fur items made from cats and dogs is illegal in the UK, yet eBay doesn’t bother to check. Indeed how could they. China and other countries in the Far East kill many thousands of dogs and cats each year. Some are eaten some are made into fur trim and jackets. Many are made into ‘fun furs’ offering garish colours and funky styles. Fun fur is often dyed to appeal to the young market, and the process of dying can alter the fur so that even at laboratory level, in most cases it is difficult to be certain that the origin of the animal is not one of man’s best friends.
And even if the fur is not from cats or dogs, the people on eBay who are selling fur, be it mink, chinchilla or raccoon dog are colluding in animal torture and suffering.
The descriptions from Care for the Wild International in conjunction with Swiss Animal Protection and East International makes harrowing reading, but perhaps Mr Omidya needs to read descriptions like these.
“undercover film obtained by investigators in late 2004 and early 2005 graphically revealed for the first time how millions of animals in typical Chinese fur farms are confined in rows of tiny, often filthy, wire cages. Housing conditions of this kind result in high cub mortality, self-mutilation and pathological behaviours. The foxes and raccoon dogs are now transported under horrendous conditions to wholesale markets where they are slaughtered, skinned, sold and bought by clothing and processing companies.
In shocking sequences, animals were filmed being lifted from their cages using a 'capture pole' with a noose at the end. Helpless and wide-eyed, foxes and raccoon dogs are suspended from their necks for considerable periods of time before workers grab them by their hind legs and, using a wooden or metal club, repeatedly strike them on the head. Others are swung hard against the ground by their hind legs in an attempt to stun or immobilize them, while their cage mates, who are next in line, look on. Many are seen convulsing and trembling, unable to move away, on the ground, no doubt suffering from bone fractures, ruptured organs and internal bleeding.
Then, in perhaps the most shocking scenes of all, workers were filmed as they skin the animals - many still alive - by plunging a knife into the rear of their belly whilst the animal lies on its back or is hung by its legs from a hook. Beginning with the hind legs, workers then wrench the animal's skin from its body, until it peels off over the head. Some workers first hacked off the animal’s paws to facilitate subsequent skinning.”
EBay appears to be unreachable. There are no telephone numbers or addresses (other than the generic eBay cover) that I can find. No board member or figure of authority who could be approached on a one to one level to discuss the appalling transactions in fur that take place on eBay sites worldwide. EBay banned ivory because of the clamour made by the rest of the world. How many more innocent animals must suffer in the name of vanity before eBay will do the humane and decent thing and ban ALL fur on ALL eBay sites across the globe?
The dogs dying for your fake UGG boots
Fur on eBay blog
Man's best friend?
Betrayed and abused and often killed. This is the fate of the dogs in the UK who are unlucky enough to fall into the hands of the sub human section of society who like to attend dog fighting contests.
On June 12, the Cutting Edge programme on Chanel 4 took a look at the criminal subculture of the dog fighting world. Since showing the programme, Chanel 4 has received a barrage of criticism and a petition has been started demanding that television programmes in future are not aired which show cruelty to animals. Some believe the programme was sensationalist, and perhaps the motive for the broadcast was shock value to increase ratings. On the other hand, if the public aren’t made aware of what is happening to these poor animals, there will be little clamour for the Law to be tightened or the long needed legislation to stop the indiscriminate breeding and sale of all dogs.
The RSPCA is not happy with Chanel 4 either, and it is seeking legal advice in order to force the programme makers into revealing the identities of the thugs who collaborated to make the footage. The police say dog fighting rings are on the increase and it is becoming a major problem in inner cities and also in the countryside.
The most popular breed of fighting animal is the pit bulldog, and although it is illegal to breed this type of dog in the UK, the lowlifes who thrive on this type of cruel sport have been able to secretly retain the pit bull blood lines and the pups and adult dogs change hands on a seedy black market for thousands of pounds.
Dog fights are well organised events that take place in occult locations such as derelict buildings, empty warehouses or in farm buildings out of view of prying eyes. A major incentive is the amount of money that can be won in a single night. The dogs are trained to a very high level of aggression. Often their ears and tails are cut off to prevent injuries during a session which would stop the fight. Training starts as puppies and the trainers set themselves up as professionals who often travel the world training fighting dogs on demand. In Britain, the police, RSPCA and SPCA are working hard to crackdown on organised dog fights and although arrests are often made and dog fighting rings are broken up, the sport has gone on for decades with complete eradication next to impossible.
Violent and cruel, the training involves the use of bait animals. People’s stolen pets are often used for the dogs to vent their savagery. Cats, dogs and even badgers and foxes are thrown into the arena and savaged to death whilst the two legged monsters goad and encourage their fighting dogs to kill and maim. Bait animals are often procured from adverts online or in local newspapers. Free to a good home adverts can and do result in the poor unwanted animals being taken by these unscrupulous people and used as expendables against much heavier and savage fighting dogs who have been starved for several days to make them more aggressive.
The actual fights are between two dogs of equal size and weight. They are placed together in a confined area, the object of the exercise is for one dog to attack and maul the other until one is either unable to go on, or is killed. Because of the vicious nature that has been created in the dogs and the stamina of their training, the fights can last for hours.
There is rarely a quick or painless end and either dog may die from its injuries or be killed by its owner after the fight if it is deemed too costly or the injuries are too severe to heal on their own. For obvious reasons the animals can’t be taken to a vet. If the injuries are not deemed too serious the dog will be allowed to recuperate before the next fight.
Although dog fighting is illegal and carries a punishment of six months in jail, the participants seem unconcerned and advertise openly online. It is shocking that a simple Internet search can pull up all kinds of websites relating to the activity.
K9 Magazine reports that message boards for dog-fighters are disturbingly busy affairs with lots of contributors. Alongside adverts for ‘on fire’ dogs (dogs currently on good fighting form) and puppies from the stock of successful fighters, were notes of advice on the best training paraphernalia, methods for constructing pits and more. You could be forgiven for thinking these people were talking about something akin to obedience trials or working dog tests by the manner in which they openly discuss methodology, tactics and other fight-related issues.
What can be done?
We must push the government for tougher penalties for convicted dog fighters. Six months in jail for this cruel criminal underclass is ludicrous. One can expect a five year jail term for tax evasion yet cruelty inflicted on innocent animals gets you just six months. Five years mandatory for dog fighting is more like a punishment, and the perpetrator must be banned from being around all animals for life. Ideally, owners must be stopped from selling unwanted pets or offering free to good homes, and all dog breeders must be licenced, and every puppy born must be micro-chipped.
Dog fighting documentary facing probe by TV watchdog after 4,000 viewers complain about graphic scenes of violence
“'As long as man continues to be the ruthless destroyer of lower living beings he will never know health or peace.” - Pythagoras 569 BC
Giving moral consideration to non-human animals has been advocated by scholars down the ages. Albert Einstein called human bigotry according to species an 'optical illusion of consciousness.' He tasked us, 'to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures.'
Hunters claim that hunting non-human animals is natural. They go on to claim that because hunting is natural hunted animals don’t suffer. Their own brand of reasoning attempts to go even deeper into an animal’s psyche and they postulate that an animal can have no idea that it is going to die, so it can’t possibly feel the psychological fear humans feel when we think violent death is imminent. They feel it is acceptable to use an animal for sport or gain because it has no concept of a life worth living. An animal has no rights and it is completely at the mercy of human beings who will snuff out its life on a whim with little thought of the suffering or fear they may cause. Or indeed, that they have deprived a sentient creature of its love of life.
The Countryside Alliance’ official stance is that hunting with dogs is not only natural, but it is humane and non-wounding as well as being good for fox kind as a whole. Indeed blogs and articles are churned out with excruciating regularity on this theme.
Perhaps it’s to convince themselves, or maybe they hope that their Goebbels style of incessant propaganda will eventually persuade the more empathic in society that we have been wrong all along, and we should now clamour for the return of fox and stag hunting as the only way forward in modern animal welfare.
In the name of open-mindedness, let us take seriously for a moment, their claim that a hunted animal doesn’t suffer in any way. To the disbelievers who find it incredulous that such a shocking statement could be made about the lack of fear and pain in a non-human I would say it is true, in so far as we cannot prove that animals DO suffer when chased and mauled by dogs. (or shot with arrows or bullets, or trapped or poisoned, or any of the other methods of killing which are deemed acceptable today).
However, the converse is also true, and the claim that hunting is cruel and causes fear and pain cannot be disproved. This introduces reasonable doubt into the hunting argument and it is therefore false to persist in arguing that a lack of proof of suffering must mean that suffering does not exist. This kind of argument is argument from ignorance. This means that if the hunters’ argument is logical and a compelling case for belief, then any fantasy story could be declared true and valid because it could not be proven wrong.
The simple fact is that cruelty cannot be disproven and therefore if we wish to declare ourselves as humane and above all other animals, then we must err on the side of caution until irrefutable evidence can be produced to show that hunted animals do not suffer in any way. Certainly most human beings would find it abhorrent to deliberately inflict pain and fear on an innocent creature who had little hope of defending itself or escaping.
There are some indisputable things that we share with non-human mammals. All mammals are sentient. We all have a central nervous system, and we all have similar reactions when we are in pain or afraid. Animals, just like children, will often yelp or scream when they are hurt and they will run away and attempt to hide when they are afraid. To be a moral society we cannot ignore what we know about how animals experience suffering. It is a matter for public ethics, and to be ethical is to be responsible, not just for our own behaviour but also for the behaviour of other members of our society. In other words, we cannot regard ourselves as ethical or humane if we allow others to mistreat those who cannot speak up for themselves. We give ourselves rights so that we can avoid suffering and we must not deny the continuity that must exist between the human and animal condition. We would be horrified at the thought of chasing and killing another human being with a pack of hounds. We are horrified and incensed when we hear that fox hounds have chased and killed a family pet. Yet there are those in society who expect us to suspend all natural abhorrence and allow them to legally hunt and kill wild mammals with hounds. Not only do these people expect us to turn a blind eye to their cruelty, but they attempt to persuade us by their propaganda that what they are seeking to do is somehow wholesome, and they expect us to believe that because the animals they hurt are wild they do not suffer in the same way as we suffer or our domestic animals suffer.
It’s not just hunted animals that fall foul of man’s anthropocentrism. Similarly with companion animals or ‘livestock’, most people believe that keeping suffering to a minimum is the right thing to do. We can then feel good that the meat we put on our forks has been reared to ‘acceptable welfare’ standards, or that buying puppies from breeders as long as they haven’t been raise in puppy mills is a moral thing to do. The list of abuses under the guise of ‘animal welfare’ is a long one. ‘Humane’ laws for chickens means instead of battery cages we now give those hens a perch and an extra few inches of floor space. We have done away with farrowing pens for pigs in the UK, but WSPA tells us approximately 9 million pigs are slaughtered annually in the UK. The majority of UK fattening pigs spend most of their lives indoors without access to the sun or the chance to express many of their normal behaviours. Boars are now castrated in the UK after anaesthetic. This is ‘good welfare’ apparently, so that some can salivate with a clear conscience over a pig’s leg roasting in the oven.
This is animal welfare in its purest form. Degrading for the animals and unsettling for those of us who have seen a better alternative. The idea that we must be allowed to use and abuse animals as long as our use and abuse adheres to accepted standards is a belief which must be challenged on every level.
One argument in favour of speciesism is that it is biologically natural to treat one's own species favourably. Virtually all non-human animals treat members of their own species better than those of other species. As a counter argument to this statement, to be human is to be moral, and to be moral is not to use others for one’s own benefit.
Commentary: I think we are all in agreement that the badger cull has failed in the eyes of the public. It was always doomed to fail because the shooters couldn’t kill enough badgers, and because every badger they did manage to kill cost the tax payer over £4,000. It failed because the British public got angry when they heard about the suffering the cull caused to our badgers. The revelations that a significant number of animals were shot in the spine or in the head and took up to ten minutes to die in agony has angered ordinary people who wouldn’t normally get involved in animal welfare. Thousands of Twitter users opposed to the cull have sent, and are still sending, thousands of tweets, causing the topic of killing UK badgers to trend on more than one occasion. A wider outcry has come from scientists, vets, animal welfare groups and members of the public who are calling with one voice for the cull to be scrapped, describing it as cruel and serving no purpose.
You would think with so much opposition the government would give way and look at the alternatives. After all it must be worrying for David Cameron with an election less than twelve months away to think that his party may be losing votes because of this highly suspect and unpopular policy. One has to ask why, and when we look behind the scenes it’s not too difficult to see the answer. It appears that this Tory government is at the mercy of the NFU. The National Farmers Union has too much influence in politics it would seem. According to 'Corporate Watch', the UK government is legally obliged by the 1947 Agriculture Act to consult the National Farmers Union when making policy.
Consult is fine, after all who should know about farming if not farmers, but it is dangerous to allow an unelected organisation to control government policy to such an extent that they will go against the scientific advice of experts in order to appease and offer the NFU a carrot.
A report in the UKColumn.org states that the NFU, which claims to be non-political, is indeed pulling government strings as an insider group with a huge amount of political power. The article goes on to say,
‘The NFU is a much more powerful Union than it appears. It does not change as Parliament changes and is therefore, in effect, much like a branch of the civil service; unelected by the wider public, but which does make and control government policy. How many farmers, or members of the non-farming community for that matter, are aware of this? Apparently not many, since the NFU only has 47,000 members actively farming (of the approximate 96,000 members in total). There are 300,000 or so active farms currently in Britain.’
With only 15% of farmers being members of the NFU how can they claim to represent the interests of farming? In a proper democracy such a small percentage should not have the power to make the decisions that will affect the rest of us not just in rural communities, but in towns and cities too.
It is not only the NFU that is seeking to control the government. The Countryside Alliance is exerting pressure to repeal the hunting Act of 2004. The Vote OK group who worked to help elect Tory candidates in the 2010 election made sure the successful candidates would vote against a hunting ban in return for their door to door leafleting and canvassing services. Vote OK could be described almost as a secret society as far as the public were concerned because the pro hunting canvassers did not declare their real interest in pushing to elect a particular candidate. The undeclared interest was of course, to bring back fox hunting.
One could describe the Countryside Alliance as both an insider and an outsider group. Many MPs in the Tory party are CA sympathisers. The very pro hunting Simon Hart, MP for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire is one of them. He was elected in 2010, after resigning as CEO of the Countryside Alliance, so that he could fight specifically on the inside to bring back hunting. And it’s not just hunting. Mr Hart is also determined to bring down the RSPCA. He thinks they have no right to prosecute hunters who flout the law. He describes the RSPCA prosecutions as political, yet he sees nothing wrong with working on the inside of government in an attempt to further the agenda of his friends in the pro hunting fraternity.
A despicable and cowardly war has been raging against the RSPCA and those pro hunting scoundrels who have orchestrated these attacks have been encouraged and supported by the Countryside Alliance, including their CEO who described the RSPCA as ‘sinister’. They would see the most respected animal charity in the world destroyed because of their insane desire to follow a pack of dogs and watch them mutilate a small, innocent fox.
The CA has also affected policy limiting restrictions on firearms and has influenced proposals involving animal welfare. These are in relation to shooting matters and other field ‘sports’. The CA claims to have used insider influence to prevent previous anti-hunting Bills becoming law prior to the Hunting Act of 2004. This was in spite of a Parliament being in favour of a ban during that time. The CA are aided and abetted by the pro hunting press, particularly the Telegraph and the Daily Mail who regularly try to get us to believe that foxes are child eating demons who must be slaughtered at all costs.
Another example of how the CA seeks to influence policy from the inside is through the Middle Way group who want to bring back hunting, but to make it seem more palatable to the uninitiated they have devised a set of rules and called it regulated or licensed hunting. Their premise is that hunting isn’t cruel and should be allowed because, they argue, it is non-wounding and of benefit to the fox. Quite how they have reached this strange conclusion is any ones guess.
However we all know the Countryside Alliance is a powerful and determined pressure group and they have the ear of the Prime Minister. They are an organisation well placed to strengthen the voice of the pro hunting wealthy and privileged as long as we have a Tory government in power. As well as having some insider politicians in their favour, the Countryside Alliance also operates as an outsider group. They have well-orchestrated demonstrations and protests and they are not above running a smear campaign against the Chief Executive of the League Against Cruel Sports. They are quick to distance themselves from any law-breaking but at the same time they don’t condemn the law breakers either. Fortunately, for fox kind and other hunted animals in the UK, public opinion has stayed firmly on the side of anti-cruelty. Yet we must not be complacent.
As we have seen public opinion turn against farmers and the NFU over the badger cull, there is hope that even though the rich and powerful are working hard to be able to legally once again rip small mammals to shreds for sport, the good people of Britain are making it clear that we want the hunting ban to stay. Two recent polls carried out by the LACS have shown that support for an outright ban has not wavered, with country folk being just as opposed to fox, stag and hare hunting as those who live in our towns.
It is important to keep on protesting. We must put animals firmly on the agenda for the elections in 2015.
Opinion: My personal hope is that Labour will become our next UK government. They have promised to stop the badger cull and promote better biosecurity on farms together with a vaccination programme for badgers and cows. It was Labour who brought in the hunting Act and indeed it was only Labour who, throughout history, have ever done anything to improve the lives of animals, wild and domestic. With a Labour government in place, the power of the NFU and the Countryside Alliance will be significantly diminished. The NFU may advise but not dictate policy and the Countryside Alliance will have to accept that their cruel sport is finally history. We can work towards strengthening the hunting ban and closing the loopholes. Perhaps in the not too distant future, we can look forward to seeing those who continue to hunt out with the law receive a minimum of two years in prison.
£7.3MILLION... the cost of killing badgers in 'disastrous' cull (with taxpayers picking up £5.8million of the bill)
Nigel Farage shows his fox hunting support at Boxing Day chase - but 80% of Brits back the ban