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Is your rabbit a happy bunny?

The RSPCA and University of Bristol reveal that it is feared that more than half of all pet rabbits could be lonely according to a new survey.

The survey, commissioned by the RSPCA and carried out by the University of Bristol, found that 60 per cent of rabbits were housed without a companion, which could lead to suffering as they naturally live in groups.

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A large proportion of rabbits – 58 per cent  –  were thought to be fearful of loud noises and 61 per cent were reported as stressed when handled by their owner.

Rabbits should have constant access to an exercise area as without this their welfare could be compromised but the study found that some rabbits only had irregular access and this was not given at a time when they needed it – in the early morning or evening when they are naturally most active.

Providing constant access to hay is one of the most important things owners can do for their rabbit as it is essential for dental and digestive health as well as keeping them busy and occupied, but ten per cent of owners did not feed their rabbits hay daily.

The RSPCA recommend that you feed your rabbit a bundle of hay as big as the bunny every day.

To help rabbits feel relaxed around people, owners should try to positively interact with their pet rabbits every day from when they are young, this can include gentle brushing and stroking. Older rabbits should also have regular positive contact with people. Although if they are not used to this, interactions should be built up slowly to avoid startling them. Interactions should take place at ground level, where possible, as people  can be perceived as less threatening in this position.

About a quarter of the rabbits with companions were found to sometimes fight and avoid each other – more frequent and intense fighting can suggest the companions are unsuited.

The RSPCA and experts at the University of Bristol would always recommend thorough research is done before buying rabbits and if they have concerns about their rabbit’s health or behaviour they should contact their vet or a suitable behaviour expert.

Dr Nicola Rooney, Research Fellow in Farm Animal Science at the University’s School of Veterinary Sciences, said: “Many pet rabbits were found to be in good health, had compatible companions and were provided with enriched living areas.

“However, we also found numerous unrecognised welfare issues that affect large numbers of pet rabbits.

“These included living alone or in incompatible groups, numerous health issues, lack of regular access to exercise areas, showing fear of loud noises and behaving anxiously when handled by their owners.

“Our findings highlight the ways in which the needs of pet rabbits are often not being met and this information will help target education to best improve the welfare of pet rabbits.”

Dr. Jane Tyson, Rabbit Behaviour and Welfare Expert at the RSPCA, said: “Whilst it is encouraging to see that many pet rabbits are living healthy and happy lives, it is also saddening to hear that a large number of rabbits are not having their welfare needs met.

“The RSPCA is working with other charities, industry experts and academics to identify a number of different activities to protect and improve the welfare of pet rabbits and the findings of this study will be crucial in assisting this work as well as identifying advice and information for owners on how best to care for their rabbits.

Article taken from: http://media.rspca.org.uk/media/pressreleases/details/-/articleName/PressIsYourRabbitAHappyBunny3Feb15

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Hunt for Russian sub may have caused spate of whale and dolphin deaths

A hunt for a Russian submarine off Scotland’s west coast may be linked to a spate of whale and dolphin deaths, it emerged on Friday.

Conservation group Whale and Dolphin Conservation has asked the Ministry of Defence to detail what military movements took place off the Scottish and Irish coasts in December.

That month a naval chase took place aided by American planes after a periscope was spotted in waters off Faslane, where Royal Navy submarines normally surface as they head in or out of the base, home to Britain’s nuclear deterrent.

But since the search experts have been baffled by an increasing spate of mystery deaths around the west coast of Scotland, including several by the world’s deepest diving mammal.

Scientists at the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust say they have now received 15 reports since mid-December of stranded Cuvier’s beaked whales, a species that is rarely seen due to its offshore distribution.

The strandings have occurred down the west coast between Scotland and Ireland including two on Mull, South Uist, Benbecula, Tiree and Kintyre.

In addition other species of whale and dolphin have washed ashore along the west coast, including a killer whale on the Uists.

Now conservationists want to know if sonar in particular – which can damage cetaceans and has been suspected in past strandings – was used in the submarine hunt.

Dr Andrew Brownlow, head of the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme, said he was still waiting for the MoD’s response.

“WDC has asked the MoD for answers, which will be passed on to me,” he said. “They want to know what military activity was taking place in the area at the time.

“It is possible that these strandings are linked to certain military activity. It is something we are looking at. But the animals were so badly decomposed we shall probably never know the answer,” he said.

Samples from some of the dead Cuviers have been sent to Dr Brownlow for analysis.

Dr Conor Ryan, sightings and strandings officer for HWDT, added: “What we do know is that there has been a large and sudden cluster event.

“It may be biological or it may be man made? We are concerned because we have not known anything like this for the last six to eight years. We do not know why and we may never know, especially given the state of the animals.”

Cuvier’s whales can grow up to 23ft-long and are widely distributed in tropical to cool temperate waters. Northern Scotland represents their northern-most limit.

The species is the current world-record holder for the longest and deepest known dive for a mammal – down to 2992 metres for two hours and 17 minutes. The pressure at this depth is 300 kg per square centimetre.

Other than the pair of teeth in adult males, beaked whales are toothless and are thought to use suction to catch their prey.

In a statement on its website, WDC said: “The mass stranding of rare, deep-diving whales along the coast of Ireland last December could be linked to a reported search by British navy warships for a suspected Russian submarine.

“Eight rarely sighted Cuvier’s beaked whales have been found off the Irish coast in recent weeks together with a number of common dolphins, a minke whale, a sperm whale, pilot whales, a fin whale, and harbour porpoises. The total of 33 whales and dolphins washed up dead on Irish shores so far this year is a record. Last year a number of Cuvier’s beaked whale deaths in Crete were thought to be due to military exercises in the area. Investigations following Britain’s largest mass dolphin stranding in 2008 concluded that the only realistic cause was military exercises taking place in the area at the time. Noise pollution threatens whale and dolphin populations, interrupting their normal behaviour, driving them away from areas important to their survival, and at worst injuring or sometimes even causing their deaths. For whales and dolphins, ‘listening’ is as important as ‘seeing’ is for humans, yet there are still no international regulations regarding noise pollution in the world’s seas.”

Article taken from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/earth/wildlife/11395236/Hunt-for-Russian-sub-may-have-caused-spate-of-whale-and-dolphin-deaths.html

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Arbroath man jailed for stabbing neighbour’s dog in row

A man has been jailed for nine months for stabbing his neighbour’s dog in Arbroath.

Liam Wright attacked the dog on 14 February after arguing with neighbours Richard Buick and Paige Sharpe.

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The couple’s dogs got out of their flat during the confrontation, before Wright fetched a knife from his home and stabbed bulldog Pooch in the neck.

The 21-year-old admitted breaching the peace, carrying a knife and stabbing the dog to the danger of its life.

Police were called to the property on Millgate Loan at 23:45, and Wright admitted to them: “I’m not going to lie, I took a knife to the dog.”

Fiscal depute Joanne Smith told Forfar Sheriff Court: “Pooch was examined shortly after the incident by a vet.

“The wounds were quite deep, with moderate to heavy bleeding from the neck wound, which was thought to be life-threatening.”

Treatment cost about £500, and the dog is making a full recovery.

Although Wright was a first offender, Sheriff Gregor Murray jailed him for nine months.

Article taken from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-tayside-central-31164111

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Dogs seized and pair arrested after dawn raid in Shropshire badger bait case

Dogs have been seized, a gun retrieved and a man and woman arrested on suspicion of using the animals to bait badgers. Fourteen police officers and six from the RSPCA burst into the home in Priest Weston, near Bishop’s Castle, in a dawn raid. The couple, who are in their 30s, were arrested at the home and later bailed pending further investigations.

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A rifle, believed to have been used for hunting, was also seized from the home and is being forensically tested for evidence.

Sergeant Adrian Woolley, of West Mercia Police, said officers conducted Police said a warrant was executed just before 6.30am yesterday.

He said the warrant was drawn up following suspicions dogs were being used to “fight wild animals and to hunt wild animals”.

“We made two arrests, a male and female in their 30s,” Sgt Woolley added. “In addition to the animal welfare offence a firearm was seized. The firearm is suspected to be unlawfully possessed. Intelligence was gained to indicate that they were involved in the illegal use of dogs to be set on badgers, which has caused unnecessary suffering to all animals involved. During the warrant, dogs were seized with injuries consistent with those sustained during the fighting and baiting of badgers. Badgers when under attack leave injuries to a dogs lower lip and jaw. Those involved in this type of illegal wildlife crime are not likely to seek proper veterinary attention and thus leaving the dogs to suffer pain, trauma and a reduced quality of life. The dogs have been seized and taken immediately to a vet to be checked over. They will receive the care and medical attention they need. The RSPCA and the West Mercia South Shropshire Safer Neighbourhood team will continue to address wildlife crime.”

Badgers are protected animals along with the setts or burrows they live in.

Under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992, in England and Wales it is an offence to wilfully kill, injure or take a badger, or attempt to do so; cruelly ill-treat a badger; dig for a badger; intentionally or recklessly damage or destroy a badger sett, or obstruct access to it; cause a dog to enter a badger sett; or disturb a badger when it is occupying a sett.

Anyone who has further information can call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or the RSPCA can also take an anonymous call on 0300 1234 999. Sergeant Woolley said a great deal of these offences were reported using this method.

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Ministers were warned of badger cull risks, documents show

Ministers were warned of the severe risks posed by England’s controversial badger cull three years before they began, according to documents released after a two-year legal battle.

Strong public opposition to the policy halting the cull was one of the top-ranked problems assessed by the ‘risk registers’, which are released the day after David Cameron admitted the badger cull is “probably the most unpopular policy I’m responsible for”.

Other significant risks were that the cull could cause an increase in tuberculosis in cattle, rather than decrease it, cost more than the funds available to government agencies and the police, and that “disagreement on the evidence base” would lead to “conflicting messages” to ministers.

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The pilot culls in Gloucestershire and Somerset have repeatedly missed their targets for the minimum number of badgers shot, leading experts to warn that disrupted badgers could spread TB further. Most independent scientists have condemned the cull and an independent panel ruled the first year’s culling to be neither effective or humane. The culls cost the government £6.3m in the first two years and the police £3.5m in the first year alone.

“The risk registers clearly show a policy that should never have moved beyond the starting blocks,” said Dominic Dyer, chief executive of the Badger Trust and policy advisor for Care for the Wild. “From day one it was clear to all involved that badger culling would be hugely expensive and would pose a significant risk of TB spread as a result of perturbation. If the public and MPs were given access to this information before the policy was implemented, we could have stopped this disastrous cull, saving millions of pounds of public money and the lives of thousands of badgers.”

The Badger Trust requested the risk registers, compiled in 2010, using freedom of information laws. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) refused and fought a series of ultimately unsuccessful appeals.

A spokesman for Defra said: “England now has the highest incidence of TB in Europe and it’s vital we pursue our comprehensive strategy to beat the disease, including tighter cattle movement controls, vaccinations and culling badgers where disease is widespread. Culling has worked in other countries and leading vets agree that it needs to be part of our strategy in England.”

He said: “There has been a great deal of transparency in Defra’s decision making process, including two public consultations held in 2010 and 2011.”

Cameron also defended the badger cull on Monday: “I profoundly believe that part of the way of trying to create some parts of the country that are TB-free is to do this. It’s very, very difficult but I believe it is the right thing to do.” Tens of thousands of cattle are slaughtered every year due to TB.

Risk registers are used to assess and address possible problems with policies being developed by government. The highest risks are those deemed very likely and having the impact of “huge financial loss or budgetary over-run; death or significant public health concerns; key deadlines missed; very serious legal concerns; major environmental impact; loss of public confidence.”

The high risk of disagreement on the evidence base for culling could lead to “conflicting messages being given the ministers”, the register found. A decade-long badger culling trial had found it could make “no meaningful contribution” to reducing bovine TB. The register advised “engaging early with those in key advisory position in Defra and its agencies.”

The prospect of the cull increasing TB in cattle was judged a 50-50 chance, but the register stated that other TB control measures and monitoring could reduce this to a low risk.

An “increase in illegal culling” leading to “an increase in TB” was also seen as a high risk, but could be reduced to a low risk with “engagement with the Home Office and Wildlife Crime Unit on procedures to follow” although no new measures were suggested.

The “security risks to staff and farmers” was judged a medium risk but could be reduced to low risk by early planning with the police and farmers. Ministers said in December that the failure of the Gloucestershire cull “reflects the challenges of extensive unlawful protest and intimidation”. Officials also admitted at that time that the cull might not reduce bovine TB.

The risk of losing a legal challenge was one given the highest rating, although ministers successfully defended cases brought by the Badger Trust.

“This Tory-led government never should have pressed ahead with these ineffective and inhumane badger culls when they knew from the start that this policy had the potential to make the problem of bovine TB worse,” said the shadow environment secretary Maria Eagle, who would end the cull if Labour is elected. “Instead of ignoring the overwhelming evidence, the government must work with scientists, wildlife groups and farmers to develop an alternative strategy to get the problem of bovine TB under control.”

Article taken from: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/feb/03/ministers-warned-badger-cull-risks-bovine-tb

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Thirsk slaughterhouse ‘attacks’ probed by FSA

One man has been sacked and three others at a North Yorkshire slaughterhouse have had their operating licences suspended after hidden cameras filmed alleged mistreatment of animals.

Footage captured by Animal Aid apparently shows sheep being kicked and punched at Bowood Lamb in Thirsk.

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The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has begun an investigation.

It said there was “no excuse” for how the animals were treated, and said prosecutions could follow.

The slaughterhouse is licensed to kill animals under the halal code, which states that animals are supposed to be killed quickly with a single sweep of a surgically-sharp knife. They should not see the knife before they are slaughtered, or witness the death of other animals.

The law requires abattoirs to stun animals before slaughter to prevent unnecessary suffering, but there are exemptions for Jewish and Muslim producers.

The BBC’s Dan Johnson says the images are likely to reopen the debate about slaughter practices

Animal rights group Animal Aid recorded the footage with hidden cameras.

An FSA spokesman confirmed that four slaughtermen had had their licences suspended, meaning they cannot operate as slaughtermen or work with live animals.

The footage apparently shows:

  • A worker hacking and sawing at animals’ throats, in contravention of Islamic practice
  • Sheep being kicked, lifted by their ears and hurled into solid structures
  • A worker jumping up and down on a sheep
  • The animals being frightened by waving knives, smacking and shouting
  • A worker holding his fist as if to punch the sheep he is holding

More than 4,000 sheep were filmed being killed at Bowood over a three-day period in December.

Kate Fowler, head of campaigns at Animal Aid, said that “vicious attacks on defenceless, frightened animals are inexcusable”.

Government-appointed vets are supposed to be on hand in all abattoirs the size of Bowood, but Animal Aid said none was seen during the three days of filming.

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The animal rights group, which is the largest in the UK, is now calling for independently-monitored CCTV cameras to be compulsory at slaughterhouses. MPs were due to debate the issue in the House of Commons later.

Animal Aid, which was formed in 1977, has been involved in a number of campaigns including condemning the culling of deer at Sellafield andcriticising the condition of Guernsey horse racing course.

The FSA, which provides operating licences and carries out inspections for slaughterhouses in the UK, said it took animal welfare at abattoirs “very seriously, which is why we immediately suspended the licences of the slaughtermen involved”.

“There is no excuse for treating animals in the way shown on the video and we are therefore investigating the footage with a view to prosecution.

“We are also continuing to investigate all the circumstances around the incident to ensure proper safeguards are introduced to stop this happening in the future.

“When the FSA has finished investigating it will need to consider if there is sufficient evidence of a breach of animal welfare legislation to justify a referral to the Crown Prosecution Service, which would decide whether to prosecute or not.”

Jamie Foster, a solicitor speaking on behalf of Bowood Lamb, said the incidents were “hugely regrettable”.

He said that a picture of a slaughterman standing on the neck of a sheep “fell far below the standards that Bowood would find acceptable, and that individual was immediately dismissed for gross negligence”.

“But it isn’t right that this is routine because Bowood is a company that takes animal welfare extremely seriously,” said Mr Foster.

The FSA said Bowood Lamb was still operating.

Article taken from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-york-north-yorkshire-31094229

Related posts: https://catdraggedin.co.uk/2014/07/25/take-action-make-cctv-mandatory-for-all-slaughterhouses/