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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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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.

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BBC News: Do people know where their chicken comes from?

Campaigners say chicken meat needs better labelling. How much do people really know about the life of a chicken before it reaches their plate?

A long, low, metal shed, fed by large plastic drums, pipes and chimneys – to the layman it looks like a small chemical plant. Hidden in the folds of the Peak District, it’s an incongruous sight. The only hint that living things are housed inside is the pungent smell from the extractor fan – like a mixture of a pet shop and manure.

The facility is not a paint or fertiliser factory. It is called Lower Farm and produces chickens. In a period of between 33 and 38 days, the chicks grow to an average weight of 2.2kg – ready to be slaughtered. Lower Farm, just outside Chesterfield, is not what most of us would think of as a farm. It is run by a poultry company called Applied Group, which operates two other farms. The chickens never go outside. Everything happens in four large sheds. The interiors of the sheds are continuously filmed and key statistics recorded – every litre the birds drink, every 10kg of feed that has been dispatched by the feeder mechanism, how much the birds weigh. Lower Farm produces 1.25 million chickens a year.

Nearly all chicken meat eaten in the UK comes from a place like Lower Farm. “This intensive chicken farming goes on behind closed doors,” says Dil Peeling, campaigns director at charity Compassion in World Farming (CWF) . “It’s hidden from people. They still have this image of chickens scratching around in a farmyard.”

Cockerels drinking from drinkers in rearing shed, Cumbria

Free-range accounts for 5% and organic 1% of UK chicken production, according to the British Poultry Council. The remaining 94% comes from intensively reared birds.

This is in stark contrast to eggs, where free-range and organic togethermake up 45% of UK production. Of the eggs bought in shops by consumers – as opposed to eggs used in processed food – free-range is now half of the market.

Egg-buying habits have changed radically. Farmers respond to consumer demand and free-range eggs accounted for just 11% of production in 1994. Ten years ago it was still only 27%. There’s been no such shift on meat chickens. It’s not uncommon to see free-range eggs advertised in sandwiches. Pret A Manger uses them. But its chicken sandwiches are not free-range but “higher welfare” indoor-reared chicken.

Egg production and chicken meat are separate industries. Since the 1950s two distinct chickens have been bred by the farming industry – laying hens for eggs and broiler chickens for meat. Sophisticated breeding means that every year a broiler chicken lives one day less to deliver the same weight of food, the RSPCA estimates.

They may be separate industries, but why do so many more people buy free-range eggs than free-range chickens? CWF recently ran a 39-day campaign – the average lifespan of an intensive broiler – to call for a chicken’s method of production to be clearly labelled.

Packets of Simply M&S skinless & boneless thighs

Cost is probably the main reason. There is a bigger price hike in free-range for chicken meat than for eggs. At Sainsbury’s, breast fillets – the most commonly bought chicken – vary from £6.95 per kg for Basics fillet portions, to £12.99 for standard, to £14.95 for free-range, to £19 for organic free-range.

Excluding the fillet portions, there is still a difference of almost £2 per kg between intensive and free-range, and more than £6 per kg between intensive and organic. Six Basics eggs cost 90p, while half-a-dozen free-range eggs cost £1.35 and organic £2. This means it costs 50% more for free-range eggs – a significant price hike.

But because eggs are fairly cheap items, it perhaps doesn’t seem so bad, just an extra 45p to go for free-range. Opting for free-range chicken breasts works out at £1.96 more expensive. “You’ve probably got to be quite committed to trade up for meat – not to mention affluent – but the difference in eggs isn’t so painful to the pocket,” says Richard Griffiths, director of policy at the British Poultry Council.

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Chicken statistics

Chicken on supermarket shelf
  • 50 billion chickens worldwide
  • 116 million broilers in the UK and 29 million laying hens
  • 750 million broilers slaughtered annually in the UK

Sources: CWF, Defra

To read the full article, click here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-29219843

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