VEGA News Item

Shot Gun Poultry Politics. Egging on an End to Fowl Play - 10/04/2006
FAWN, the Farm Animal Welfare Network (which incorporates Chicken’s Lib) “fights cruelty” in a well-informed and practical way, especially as it enlists timely participation and activity in the ploys inspired by its messages.
FAWN, the Farm Animal Welfare Network (which incorporates Chicken’s Lib) “fights cruelty” in a well-informed and practical way, especially as it enlists timely participation and activity in the ploys inspired by its messages.

VEGA introduces FAWN on our website for a special reason and for the relevance and topicality of FAWN’s current enterprises. The special reason is this: Clare Druce, director of FAWN, and a volunteer from VEGA were honoured to serve as expert advisers and witnesses in the McLibel case, acting for the defence. Although Helen and Dave, the indomitable heroes in the indictment, finally had to concede defeat to McDonalds, the judgement allowed that the defence had adduced compelling evidence that McDonalds had been “guilty of culpable cruelty” to animals.

The FAWN message comes at an apt time when the threat of bird flu, a pathogenic zoonosis, hangs over the enormous poultry industry and leisure activities commercialized as “sports” and practised in an amateur aspect of the countryside pursuits that townies are expected to admire; moreover, the threats are global and represent an appalling condemnation of our species’ greed for intensified production of supposedly cheap food at the cost of appalling environmental harm and cruel violations in their interactions between “our” domestic animals and the wildlife for whom we are making so many habitats and movements hostile.

Free ranging buzzwords, approvals, logos, and symbols are now being found out for the falseness they embrace. When will animal welfarists wake up to the need for welfare warnings and “traffic light” labelling on foodstuffs to reinforce the standards borne by health claims?

Or will indifference in the public shrug off yet another scare? Foot-and-mouth disease does not affect humans directly. The BSE epidemic is apparently petering out after an appalling toll of cattle, nearly all dairy cows with the iconic TV example of the pathetic stumbling black-and-white, and with human distress for about 150 victims and their families, much fewer than some of the latter-day modelling and forecasts. But that is not all: threats linger in doubts over the other prion diseases, BSE-like but spreading insidiously into other species such as sheep and goats. Medical doubts over blood products and human organs persist too. Strict veggies of 10 or 20 years practice and unsullied as recipient of blood are acquiring special esteem as donors of blood and at their death for their bodies for research and replacement parts.

However, there is a big difference now. The live/deadstock industry has resiled from the catastrophe of BSE and FMD, but now the Government is taking a sterner line over the lavish subsidization that baled out the farming industry before and paid for restocking with animals ineptly moved and quarantined. The Government insists now that the farming industry must insure and indemnify itself against the effects of these epidemic eventualities (and the necessary surveillance in the public interest). Elections are pending; H5N1 avian flu has reached the British Isles. Farmers claim that no insurer will underwrite the epidemic threat it implies – and examples within the EU already demonstrate sharp reactions by consumers and in the tourist industry. Will imports maintain availability of “safe” poultry products? It’s unlikely and highly offensive to British producers and retailers, especially if subsidies dry up.

Therefore, we commend FAWN’s initiative. It is focused on an aspect of the poultry industry that is at last attracting full disrepute. Politically it should have a sharp volley of free-range Easter eggs, for which voters with animal welfare and green credentials should equip themselves with the information herewith and with FAWN’s pamphlet entitled Rearing Pheasants for Shoots (which now has special relevance as the Bill for Animal Welfare undergoes its examination in Parliament). FAWN can also provide examples of devices used to prevent vicious pecking among the stressed and imprisoned flocks.

See FAWN March Newsletter  

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