VEGA News Item

Species in Danger. What About that Ruddy Duck? - 01/11/2005
Those ducks’ fortunes look even insecure and endangered if their kind are found to be silent carriers of avian flu and thus victims of massacres on a foot-and-mouth disease scale. If only more viruses were endangered and more consistency of regard and care were exhibited to all other animals, great and small, in “our” world!
Re: Consultation on Proposals to Prohibit the Keeping of Certain CITES Specimens

The present concern over avian flu and its possible dire consequences sharpen the relevance of earlier consultations and reveal yet again the need for swinging and costly reforms in policing, with some practices being priced out.

1. Training and licensing must be enforced on all handlers, keepers, owners and custodians of animals. These stipulations must apply to all transporters of livestock and to dealers. They must be enforced with special concern for exotic animals and others brought in from the wild. Quarantining must be established at the point of exportation, as well as at the port of arrival. Traceability must be established throughout and accommodation for the animals must be assured and paid for before they begin their journey.

2. Precedents exist in movements and traceability of animals regarded as pets, companions, or for farming purposes. Policing, control, and enforcement must be a duty of DEFRA, levying taxes on the industry to pay for the costs of these services, for which precedents can be found in other commercial dealings in livestock. Humane methods of identification must be practised. Records of the traffic must be available for inspection and analysis, especially with regard to injuries, disease, and DOAs occurring in transit.

3. Many local authorities are unlikely to possess the expert knowledge required to supervise the traffic in animals and in their distribution and keeping in private ownership and collections and in zoos, circuses, and for medical experimentation; nor have they the means to accredit international carriers and their worthiness. A national system must be established, such as the MHS, with powers of entry. Local authorities must also be assured of powers of entry to any site in their area where animals are being kept, reared, or displayed, and they and DEFRA must have stringent powers over environmental and zoonotic consequences of introduction of livestock. Similar stipulations in a botanical context must be applied to plants and seeds.

4. The foregoing stipulations apply consistently to pet shops and petting farms registered, like other sites, with veterinary practices proving the relevant competence and knowledge of animal behaviour and husbandry.

5. Upheavals of wildlife in a distant country to confinement in the strange and unaccustomed conditions in another are a serious violation of animal welfare, especially as escapes into the wild in the new territory may occur with disastrous results, some being well known and the result of intended liberations. For these reasons the keeping and collection of alien species and disrespect for the animals’ being must be discouraged and restricted by the costs of control and restraint and by intelligence on smuggling and illegal dealing. The restrictions must be exercised likewise on imports of semen, embryos, and genetic material. Modern methods of photography are so good and well narrated that educational purposes are better met in this way than by observations of animals kept in alien circumstances; or many opportunities offer to observe animals in their home environment and habitats – in fact too many in the worst excesses of tourism.

6. Welfare and hygiene aspects of imported livestock and derivatives thereof are common to all imported species, with extra precautions and restrictions respecting conditions at the point of dispatch and at the point of arrival. All involved in the trade, which includes carriers, must undertake these responsibilities and indemnify themselves against the possibilities of fault and the costs of surveillance and humane treatment of rejected or returned cargos. We recommend veterinary consulates in appropriate countries, possibly on a shared basis with other nations. As with items such as bush meat smuggling must be countered by intelligence gathered by official services and NGOs, with particular vigilance at ports, markets, fairs, exhibitions, pet shops, farms, zoos, and circuses, engaging the full responsibilities of veterinarians employed in the government services or privately, Any connivance in objectionable activities or acceptance of duties beyond their competence must lead, as with similar implications by doctors, with the errant practitioners being at least struck off the professional register.

7. Objects of animal origin brought in of dubious provenance and from systems of unacceptable husbandry, slaughter, or other abuse would comprehend such as those listed below. Stimulation of unexceptionable replacements must overcome most or all of the difficulties.

7.1 Products for pharmaceutical use or as tonics and nostra for therapeutic purposes, these being extracts of glands, organs, or fetuses obtained from live or slaughtered or hunted animals (which would therefore include fish and other marine species). Modern pharmacies offer alternatives, of which preparations such as Viagra and vitamin/mineral supplements and synthetic hormones fulfill such applications. Deer velvet is still being imported into the UK as a source of tonics. As the velveting of British deer is not permitted on grounds of welfare, a ban on imports would exhibit an apt demonstration of commitment on these matters.

7.2 Similar remarks apply to substances used in manufacturing, e.g. scent glands from which musks and other replaceable extracts continue in use in the fashion industry, and certain oils of animal origin may still be used in engineering industries.

7.3 Apparel and footwear and items used for furniture and recreation and as trophies include feathers, skins, furs, leather and wool, serving replaceable functions as affectation and adornment. The MoD has been seeking alternatives for bearskin headwear and acceptable alternatives for ermine in tribal garb are available.

8. The problem arises of animals already illegally imported or brought in by otherwise unacceptable means and possibly inadequately housed or let loose into the local wildlife, sometimes with untoward consequences. Halting the continuation of these malpractices and the apparently well-meaning restoration and revivals of British wildlife (e.g. the introduction of wolves into fenced estates in the Scottish Highlands) need much consideration in environmental and animal (including human) terms. They will need much attention in interpretations and action on DEFRA’s Animal Welfare Bill and implementation of the resulting Act (which will have special reference to collections such as zoos, circuses, and petting farms).

9. The ruddy duck represents a natural event of a type that has happened on many occasions in evolution and response to global changes of climate and geography. Domesticated farming and human interventions have produced mules of various species and hybrids and crosses of all sorts – and even the “ethnic cleansing” of certain genotypes of sheep and goats with susceptibility to BSE masquerading as scrapie. Our own species demonstrates examples of such mixing. On a live-and-let-live basis, the white duck should be saved like other rare breed, (most of them rare because of unnatural interventions) in conservation areas and care; and stocks of their DNA should be kept. It is unfortunate that at the moment such animals will be valued and protected more for their possible use in commercial exploitations of the live/dead stock industry, rather than for our species’ respect for the dignity of the other inhabitants of “our” world. Let us human mongrels give the ruddy duck a life, except perhaps if it is carrier of harmful avian viruses of microorganism species that are fortunately far from endangered.

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