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Petition: Ask Defra for independently-monitored CCTV in all slaughterhouses

Animal Aid filmed covertly at the Malik Food Group slaughterhouse near Burnley in Lancashire. This is the 12th slaughterhouse that Animal Aid has filmed, and the 11th found to be breaking animal welfare laws.

What they found there is absolutely shocking.

  • Malik is a non-stun slaughterhouse which must by law keep knives surgically sharp. But knives were so blunt that sheep had their throats hacked at multiple times.
  • Others were moved before they had been given time to lose consciousness – another breach of welfare laws.
  • On three occasions, a worker picked up sheep by their fleeces and threw them, while many other animals endured rough handling. Some were taunted whilst being abused.
  • Of deep concern is that a worker warned the others when the Food Standards Agency (FSA) vet was approaching.

The FSA is thought to have taken steps to remove one man’s slaughter licence and launched an investigation. It has confirmed that there are ‘serious non-compliances with animal welfare legislation’ and we expect criminal proceedings to follow. One of the company’s directors already has a conviction for animal cruelty.

Please send a message to Defra Minister George Eustice to tell him we urgently need independently-monitored CCTV in all slaughterhouses. If you can personalise the message, it will have a greater impact.

To send this important message, click here: http://www.e-activist.com/ea-action/action?ea.client.id=1825&ea.campaign.id=67792

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Fish are sentient animals who form friendships and experience ‘positive emotions’, landmark study suggests

zebrafish.jpg

Fish are sentient animals who form friendships, experience “positive emotions” and have individual personalities.

That, according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), is the implication of a landmark new study which found zebrafish are social animals in a similar way to humans and other mammals.

And people who refuse to eat meat on moral grounds but do eat fish – as well as people who keep fish as pets – should bear that in mind, Dr Penny Hawkins, head of the RSPCA’s research animals department, told The Independent.

The researchers discovered that being in a group gives zebrafish a kind of “social buffering” so they are less afraid when confronted by danger.

And this effect was associated with a distinct pattern of brain activation known to be involved in social buffering in mammals, they added.

Because of this similar mechanism, the scientists hope zebrafish can now be used as a model to study social effects on human health with suggestions that isolation can have a significant impact on conditions such as depression.

But Dr Hawkins said the study also added to the growing body of evidence that fish should not be viewed as lesser animals.

“I think if you are going to think it’s okay to eat any animal, then you have to realise what you are doing,” she said.

“You are causing the death of an animal who is sentient, who has experiences, interests.”

She said the RSPCA did not advocate vegetarianism but operated a “welfare friendly” labelling scheme for meat and fish.

“If you do choose to eat meat and fish do just be aware of what you are buying into and make sure you go for higher welfare labels and not just the cheapest,” she said.

Asked if she thought fish could form friendships, Dr Hawkins said: “It depends how you define friendship. It’s not going to be analogous to human friendship.

“But if you think of friendship in terms of being with another individual who you are familiar with and whose company you seek and who makes you feel positive emotions, then these are fish friendships.

“It would be a good thing if these kinds of results were used, not only to improve the lives of laboratory fish, but also for people who keep fish in fish tanks to think about what they are doing when they mix unfamiliar fish together or when they split groups of fish up.

“They are not just ornaments or play things for people, they are individuals, they are sentient.

“There’s quite a lot of research going on into fish personalities. Some fish are bold, some are shy, there’s a whole lot more going on in the fish tank than people than people thought previously.”

However she also criticised the study, saying the anaesthetic used on the fish before they were killed had been “shown to be very irritating for them”.

“They will work quite hard to get out of it. There are other anaesthetics that don’t have this effect,” Dr Hawkins said.

She said it was a “a bit of a tragic conflict” that the evidence “to make people sit up and think” about fish had come from a study that involved animal suffering.

“The price these individuals paid in order to find this out was pretty high,” Dr Hawkins said.

The zebrafish were kept in a laboratory tank and exposed to their own ‘alarm substance’, a secretion from their skin that signals danger, the researchers said in the journal Scientific Reports.

If they were alone, they displayed signs of greater fear, but when they were with other zebrafish they responded more calmly. They were then killed to allow their brains to be examined.

Professor Rui Oliveira, of the ISPA university in Lisbon, who led the study, said what made it significant was the discovery that zebrafish shared a similar social buffering process in the brain with humans and mammals.

Asked about whether it should change people perceptions of fish, he said: “What this study shows is certainly they change the way they perceive their environment when others are present, which suggests they might be cognitively more complex than we originally thought.

“Maybe because of that people will become more aware of their needs and welfare issues. I think if it helps, it’s great.

“There are all the myths about fish have a memory of five seconds, like in [the film Finding] Nemo, that’s obviously not the case.”

On Dr Hawkins’ complaint about the way the zebrafish were killed, he said the anaesthetic used was part of the official protocol and he was unaware of a better alternative.

His colleague, Dr Ana Faustino, stressed the zebrafish’s social support process “does not have the complexity of the social support verified in humans”.

But she added: “Research in zebrafish will allow us to explore in depth the neural mechanisms involved in this social behaviour, which is paramount to the well-being and mental health of the human species, particularly due to its relevance to certain psychological diseases such as depression.”

Article taken from: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/fish-sentient-animals-friends-positive-emotions-study-study-source-ethics-eating-pescaterians-vegans-a7660756.html

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What does Brexit mean for animal welfare?

The following article has been taken from the RSPCA website, published on 7 July 2016 : https://blogs.rspca.org.uk/insights/2016/07/07/brexit-animal-welfare/#.V5nb2fkrK7t

As you all are aware, the UK narrowly voted to leave the European Union in June.

The RSPCA remained neutral during the EU referendum, but we can now campaign to ensure that animal welfare is not compromised as part of the process to leave the EU, and ensure opportunities are taken to improve existing policies and standards.

There are many unknowns to be sorted out before the UK can leave the EU; what will be our negotiating position, how long will this take, and when will we know what animal welfare laws are being kept and what ones consigned to the dustbin?

One thing that is certain is that the RSPCA will be there fighting for the protection of all present European legislation on animals, and using every opportunity to get laws passed that are even better than the ones we have now.

We will produce detailed briefings in due course, but want to reassure you that we are paying very close attention to this issue and will summarise what we know at present.

Firstly the good news


Veterinary Nurse Tammy Jarvis holding 12-week-old Staffie pup. All the laws that are set at the national level, by the Governments and Parliaments in the UK, will not be touched.

These include our Animal Welfare Act which is the framework law for animal cruelty in England and Wales.  We spend the majority of our time and money enforcing this legislation, through our 340 inspectors.

Our aim; protecting and rescuinganimals from suffering, rehabilitatingthem through our 50 centres and clinics and then finding them forever homes, will not change.  Specific laws on companion animal welfare  (by this we mean domesticated animals and pets) under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 will continue.

This includes:

  • Restrictions on the tail docking of dogs
  • The ban on the use of shock collars in Wales
  • Licensing of horse riding establishments
  • The raft of legislation the UK Government is now considering on the breeding, boarding and selling of dogs
  • The selling of all animals in England

Sentencing is also not part of the EU so will not be impacted.  Other areas not affected include the hunting of wild animals with dogs (the Hunting Act 2004 in England and Wales), the welfare of wild animals in travelling circuses, and the ban on fur farming.

How many animal welfare laws come from the EU?


SIngle juvenile foxAround 80% of UK animal welfare legislation originates from the EU with some 44 different laws agreed over the past 42 years.

The largest number cover farm animalswith 17 EU laws setting standards on the way farm animals are reared and produced, transported and slaughtered.  There is also legislation covering consumer information such as labelling the origin of eggs and meat products.

The eleven laws covering wildlife fall into two areas – those that are part of international treaties and those that are not.  The former are likely to be better protected as we are members already of those treaties.  The latter include laws prohibiting the import of wild caught birds and seal skins and the keeping of animals in zoos. These laws could be more vulnerable.

The use of animals in research is regulated by nine different laws covering the breeding, care and use of animals for scientific purposes; the transport of animals; the use of animals to test chemicals, biocides or plant protection products; the prohibition of the testing, marketing and import of cosmetics products testing on animals; and the cloning of animals eg. for food.

Companion animals are the least regulated.  Four laws provide rules allowing free commercial and non-commercial movement of dogs and cats provided they have been identified and vaccinated. There is also an import ban on products made from dog and cat fur.

So how many laws are covered?

Pig on grass

Thirteen of these EU laws are in the form of ‘directives’, which have already been implemented into existing UK legislation and so would need to be overturned if they are no longer required.  31 are ‘regulations and decisions’, which are applicable to the UK without national implementation.  This means that depending on how the UK exits the EU, they may be automatically deleted on UK withdrawal unless Parliament legislates for them to remain.  Alternatively, all pre-existing laws will simply be carried over for amendment on a piecemeal basis.

However, there are real opportunities to improve animal welfare.  Last year British farmers received nearly €3.5 billion in subsidies from Europe.  We can now decide how these subsidies will be spent and if they should be used to fund, for instance, animal welfare assurance schemes or farming at higher standards. There is an opportunity for the devolved administrations of the UK to do this.

There are also opportunities for the UK to agree higher standards such as mandatory CCTV in slaughterhouses or prohibiting the slaughter of farm animals without stunning.

Much still remains to be agreed.  But we have already started the process of giving our recommendations to the UK government and we hope that you will join us so that, together, we can ensure nothing gets left behind and we can improve the standards we already have.

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The truth about animal charities, cats and dogs

Article by William MacAskill and Amanda MacAskill for The Guardian UK:

As we approach December – the month when almost a third of all charitable giving for the year takes place – many of us might be wondering where we should be sending our charitable donations. Some of us will choose to give to charities such as Against Malaria Foundation, which helps to protect people in the developing world from a disease that kills almost 3,000 children every day. And yet, despite the great needs of humans around the world, many people will choose to donate to charities that help animals. In fact, it has recently been reported by the Mirror that “bequests to animal charities beat donations to human causes”, and that donations bequeathed to animals “dwarfed” those going to vulnerable and abused children.

kitten in hand

Is it true that donations to animal charities outstrip donations to human charities in the UK? The simple answer is no. The Charities Aid Foundation, which surveys people about the donations that they have made in the last 12 months, found that in 2014 only 7% of the total amount that people donated went to animal charities. This is much lower than donations to human-focused charities such as medical charities, children’s charities, and hospitals, overseas charities, and religious charities. These five causes collectively received 62% of total donations, and every one of these causes individually received more than animal charities did.

But what about bequests to charities that people make in their wills: do animal charities sweep up the biggest share of these types of donations? Again, the answer is no. The National Council for Voluntary Organisations reports that in 2009-2010, environmental charities, which includes animal charities, received only 22% of all legacy donations, while social services, research, and health charities jointly received 62% of legacy donations. The animal charity that received by far the most legacy donations was the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (£74.9m), which received less than either Cancer Research UK (£157.4m) or the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (£93.8m).

Of course, some individual animal charities do receive more than some individual human charities, as the Mirror article highlights. But this is pretty uninformative if what we want to know is whether animal or human charities received more money. When we look at the numbers, it’s clear that donations to human charities dwarf donations to animal charities, and not the other way around.

Although animal charities receive less money than charities that help humans, animal causes are clearly important to many people. So if you want to help animals, what should you do? As the Charities Aid Foundation survey shows, most people find it difficult to know which charities to give to when there are so many charities out there, and they also want to know that their money is actually helping. This is where effective giving comes in. When we give effectively, we give to those charities that we have the best evidence are making the biggest difference in a given cause area.

If we want to donate to charities that make the biggest difference to animals, it’s important for us to realise that animal suffering and death don’t just affect domestic animals such as dogs and cats. In fact, Animal Charity Evaluators – an organisation that researches the effectiveness of different animal charities – points out that for every individual dog or cat euthanised in shelters in the US, about 360 farm animals were killed. In the UK alone, about 90 million chickens are slaughtered every month. And 94% of these are raised intensively in sheds that contain about 17 chickens per square metre. Farm animals such as pigs, cows and chickens are capable of sadness and joy, just as cats and dogs are. But they are suffering and dying at much greater rates, and are receiving a tiny proportion of current donations to animal charities.

The good news is that more research is being done into how we can most effectively help animals, and our donations may be able to go a long way.

Just as with human-focused charities, there are huge differences between how much good different animal charities do. And even if we are not likely to give the majority of our money to animal charities this giving season or in our wills, we can do a lot of good by giving the money that we do choose to donate more effectively.

Article taken from: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/nov/19/charity-animals-cats-dog

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Take Action: Campaign to end live animal exports

Each year tens of thousands of live farm animals are shipped overseas from UK shores to the continent. Loaded onto crowded trucks, their gruelling journeys can take days as they travel as far as Spain and Greece only to be slaughtered at their destination. Many animals, such as calves and sheep, suffer stress and exhaustion, hunger, thirst and rough handling – some even die in transit.

These poor animals can’t speak out, but we can. RSPCA are asking people to help end their suffering and lend our voices in calling on the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to stop live exports of farmed animals from the UK.

To sign the petition and demand change from DEFRA, click here.

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Take Action: Campaign to end non-stun slaughter

Millions of animals suffer as a result of slaughter without pre-stunning. Animal welfare organisation Slaughterhouse Reform has launched a new campaign calling for an end to this cruel practice, as well as clearer labelling so consumers can make more informed choices about any meat they buy.

Yorkshire Pig on Grass

Chickens, sheep, cows, pigs and ducks are just some of the hundreds of millions of animals farmed for food in the UK each year. Every animal is an individual and they have the capacity to suffer. Slaughterhouse Reform believe all farm animals should be reared to high welfare standards and killed under the most humane conditions possible.

As long as intensive farming practices, long distance transport and non-stun slaughter is permitted, the group calls for clear and compulsory labelling on all meat products (fresh, frozen and processed) that allows concerned consumers to be able to find out:

– how an animal was farmed

– their country of origin

– how they were killed (stunned or non-stunned).

The campaign is supported by RSPCA and Compassion in World Farming.

To demand better conditions for animals bred for slaughter, click here to sign the petition to DEFRA.