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Breaking: Scotland publish Bill to ban wild animal circuses

The Captive Animals’ Protection Society, along with campaign partners, have welcomed publication of the Scottish Government Bill to ban the use of wild animals in travelling circuses in Scotland, along with proposals to review performing animal regulations.

The Bill covers all non-domesticated animals travelling and performing in circuses, and any form of display or exhibition in static premises such as winter quarters.

A Scottish Government consultation in 2014 produced an overwhelming response in favour of banning wild animal circuses in Scotland.  Out of 2,043 responses, 98% thought the use of wild animals for performance in travelling circuses should be banned; and 96.4% thought the use of wild animals for exhibition (without performing) in travelling circuses should be banned. Both aspects are covered in the Bill.

The most recent Scottish poll, carried out for the More for Scotland’s Animals coalition in March 2016, found that 75% of those polled supported an end to the use of wild animals in circuses, rising to 78% in the 18-24 age group.

The ban will be made on ethical grounds reflecting respect for animals and their natural behaviours.  The same approach was taken when the Scottish Parliament banned fur farming in 2002.

 

Nicola O’Brien, Campaigns Director with the Captive Animals’ Protection Society commented:

“With 98% of consultation respondents stating wild animals in circuses should be banned, we applaud the Scottish Government for listening to the public by making this historic decision. Scotland has not only taken action to protect animals within its borders but also paved the way for the rest of the UK to follow. A joined-up approach across the union is needed to ensure wild animals are truly free from exploitation in circuses.”

The Scottish Government seeks to achieve early passage of the Bill in order to establish that wild animal circuses are not welcome or permitted in Scotland.  Until the legislation is in place there is a risk travelling circuses could bring wild animals to Scotland.

The call to ban the use of wild animals in travelling circuses in Scotland gained overwhelming public support following an outcry as Thomas Chipperfield brought two lions and three tigers to overwinter at a farm near Fraserburgh in 2014.

Animal Defenders International, Born Free Foundation, Captive Animals’ Protection Society and OneKind are urging Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) to support the Bill when it comes before them.  A ban on wild animal circuses featured in the manifestos of the SNP, Scottish Labour and Scottish Green parties for the 2016 election and the issue is widely regarded as unfinished business.

Once passed, the legislation will be the first outright ban on wild animal circuses anywhere in the UK, joining 18 European countries, and 35 around the world, with restrictions in place – and more in the pipeline.

The animal protection groups have concerns about other forms of entertainment using animals, such as reindeer displays, bird of prey exhibitions in shopping centres, and mobile zoos and animal handling parties. The organisations have welcomed a commitment from the Scottish Government today to address these activities and are calling for this review to progress in parallel with the circus bill.

Take Action!

  • Contact your local MSP and ask them to support the Bill, using the points below – https://www.writetothem.com/
    • 98% of respondents to a Scottish consultation said they thought wild animals in circuses should be banned
    • 18 European countries and 35 around the world have bans or restrictions on animals in circuses
    • Scotland can lead the way on banning animal circuses in the UK
  • Ahead of the General Election, contact your local MPs for all political parties and ask them to include a ban in their manifesto! https://www.writetothem.com/

Article taken from: https://www.captiveanimals.org/news/2017/05/

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Theresa May urged to honour climate and wildlife commitments

Leading environmental campaigners have warned the government against scaling back on commitments to tackle climate change and end the illegal market in wildlife in order to secure post-Brexit trade deals.

Greenpeace, WWF, Friends of the Earth and high-profile figures including Andy Murray and Will Young are among those who have signed a joint letter to the prime minister urging Theresa May not to engage in an “environmental race to the bottom” after withdrawal from the EU.

The campaigners said they feared international green commitments could be watered down in return for lucrative bilateral trade agreements. The letter said: “We are alarmed by recent media reports suggesting that the UK’s commitments to tackling climate change and ending the illegal wildlife trade could be watered down to secure post-Brexit trade deals.

“To be a great, global trading nation, the UK must deliver on its promises for the environment and the climate and honour our international commitments. In doing so we will help build a greener, better and more prosperous future for everyone, rather than driving an environmental race to the bottom.”

The WWF chief executive officer, Tanya Steele, said: “An African elephant is killed every 25 minutes by ivory poachers, and we are already seeing the serious impacts of climate change, with more severe weather events in the UK.

“Our environment must not be sacrificed during the Brexit negotiations. The UK government must deliver on its promises and leave the environment in a better state for future generations rather than trading away protections for our nature and climate.”

A government spokesperson said: “The UK is a global leader in tackling the illegal wildlife trade and a key part of worldwide efforts on climate change, including implementing the commitments made under the Paris agreement. Our commitment to both issues is as strong as ever.

“The government also has a clear ambition to be the first generation to leave the natural environment in a better state than we found it while securing the best deal for the country as we leave the EU.”

Article taken from: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/apr/16/theresa-may-urged-to-honour-climate-and-wildlife-commitments

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More than a quarter of UK birds face extinction risk or steep decline

More than a quarter of UK birds, including the puffin, nightingale and curlew, require urgent conservation efforts to ensure their survival, according to a new report on the state of the UK’s birds.

Since the last review in 2009, an additional 15 species of bird have been placed on the “red list”, a category that indicates a species is in danger of extinction or that has experienced significant decline in population or habitat in recent years. The total number of species on the red list is now 67 out of a total of 247.

On top of this, eight species are considered at risk of global extinction: the balearic shearwater, aquatic warbler, common pochard, long-tailed duck, velvet scoter, slavonian grebe, puffin and turtle dove.

“We’ve been putting these reports out since 1999 – I think it is one of the worst we’ve seen,” said David Noble, one of the authors of the State of the UK’s Birds study and principal ecologist for monitoring at the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO).

Noble said a variety of factors led to the classification of an increased number of species in danger, including land use change, such as afforestation and drainage of fields for farmland, and increased numbers of predators, such as foxes. He also pointed to the global impacts of climate change, which affect migratory birds.

The report is produced by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds(RSPB), the BTO and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, in partnership with the UK’s statutory nature conservation bodies. It collates material from other studies and bird surveys to give a thorough report on the status of various avian species.

There is particular concern among conservationists for the curlew, Europe’s largest wader, which has seen a population decline of 64% from 1970 to 2014 in the UK, largely due to habitat loss. The UK supports up to 27% of the global curlew population, and due to its “near threatened” global status, a research plan has been created to help understand the causes of the species’ decline.

Curlew (Numenius arquata) population in the UK has declined 64% from 1970 to 2014, largely due to habitat loss.
Curlew ( Numenius arquata) population in the UK has declined 64% from 1970 to 2014, largely due to habitat loss. Photograph: Thomas Hanahoe/Alamy Stock Photo

“Curlews are instantly recognisable on winter estuaries or summer moors by their striking long, curved beak, long legs and evocative call,” said Dr Daniel Hayhow, conservation scientist at the RSPB. “They are one of our most charismatic birds and also one of our most important.”

There was good news in the report for some species, including the golden eagle, whose numbers have increased 15% since 2003, and for cirl buntings, which now have more than 1,000 breeding pairs, up from 118 in 1989. Another success story is the red kite, once one of the UK’s most threatened species, which is now on the green list – the lowest level of concern – after years of efforts by conservationists.

Noble said the improvement in the red kite and golden eagle population had to do with a slow rebuilding of populations that had been decimated by attacks from people keen to protect their grouse moors and egg collectors taking their eggs.

In the case of the red kite, he said monitoring of nest sites and the reintroduction of the birds into new areas of the UK were reasons for the recovery of the species.

“Now they’ve spread right across the UK from the strongholds they were reduced to in Wales and some parts of Scotland. Now you can see them in East Anglia occasionally,” he said.

In addition to these successes, a number of species, such as the bittern and nightjar, have moved from the red list to the amber list. Species are placed on the amber list if they are considered at threat of European extinction or have seen a moderate decline in population or habitat. An additional 22 species have moved from the amber to the green list.

Article taken from: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/apr/11/more-than-a-quarter-of-uk-birds-face-extinction-risk-or-steep-decline-study

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RSPCA animal cruelty caseload rises to almost 150,000 investigations

The number of animal cruelty investigations by the RSPCA jumped by nearly 5% last year to more than 400 a day, according to figures released by the animal welfare charity.

In its annual prosecutions report the RSPCA said it had investigated almost 150,000 cases in 2016. Calls to its 24-hour cruelty hotline rose by nearly 4%, averaging one every 27 seconds.

Dermot Murphy, assistant director of the RSPCA inspectorate, said he thought that rather than the figures representing a rise in cruelty they suggested that more people were sharing abuse images on social media, leading to more investigations.

He said: “I believe that the figures from last year show that we’re not becoming more cruel, but that people are simply less willing to stand by and do nothing if they think an animal is suffering. People are increasingly likely to share images or footage on their social media accounts of animals they believe are not being cared for properly, while many will see material their friends have shared and then contact us about them.”

People persecuting badgers have been brought to the attention of the RSPCA.
People persecuting badgers have been brought to the attention of the RSPCA. Photograph: Nature Picture Library/Getty Images

A total of 149,604 complaints of animal abuse were investigated by the RSPCA in 2016, including the case of Reo, a nine-year-old German shepherd who was whimpering in agony when she was found, suffering from open wounds on her ears, jaw and eye. Her owner was banned from keeping animals for life after being prosecuted by the RSPCA. The charity said the dog was now thriving in her new home.

Other cases highlighted in the RSPCA report include:

  • A bulldog repeatedly thrown down a flight of stairs, stamped upon and headbutted;
  • A royal python and boa constrictor which were both decapitated with a pair of scissors;
  • A shih-tzu dog repeatedly stabbed in the face and neck with a kitchen knife before being left to die in broad daylight;
  • Badgers dug out of a sett and a waiting pack of dogs encouraged to attack them as their ordeal was filmed on a mobile phone;
  • A golden eagle kept in a cramped kitchen, surrounded by broken glass and empty tin cans.

Murphy said: “It never fails to shock me when I look back on the extreme instances of animal cruelty the RSPCA has been called upon to investigate. It continues to outrage and sadden me that people can be capable of such deliberate brutality towards animals. But equally it drives me on to ensure that perpetrators of animal cruelty are put before the courts.”

The majority of complaints received by the RSPCA were about the welfare of dogs (84,994), followed by cats (36,156) and equines (19,530).

The highest number of complaints investigated were in Greater London (11,812), West Yorkshire (7,920) and Greater Manchester (7,708).

Murphy said: “People might see these figures as a negative, and I certainly take no satisfaction from knowing that any animal has suffered. What I do take pride in is knowing that because of the RSPCA’s intervention we have prevented many more animals from suffering at the hands of those whom we have successfully investigated and brought before the courts.”

Article taken from: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/29/rspca-animal-cruelty-caseload-rises-to-almost-150000-investigations

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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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Scottish Natural Heritage review fails to consider a ban on snaring

The League Against Cruel Sports Scotland and OneKind are urging the Scottish Government to consider and consult on a ban on snares following a review of snaring in Scotland.

The findings of the review, commissioned by the Scottish Government and carried out by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), were published today (Tuesday). The charities have branded the findings “a wasted opportunity”, and have criticised the limited scope of the review. In 2010, during the passage of the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act, MSPs voted for a regulatory regime for snare use in Scotland rather than an outright ban, but made provisions for a review to be carried out by December 2016.

SNH was tasked with examining the impact of the regulations and has published its findings. The report has found that snaring related incidents have reduced and made a number of recommendations for further small changes to the way which snares are regulated.

The limited remit of the review meant consideration of a ban on snaring was not included in the research, which both the League Scotland and OneKind say was a flaw from the offset. Both charities want to see snaring banned in Scotland on animal welfare and ethical grounds.

Robbie Marsland, Director of the League Against Cruel Sports, Scotland said: “Since the snaring regulations were introduced over five years ago animals have continued to endure needless suffering as a result of cruel and indiscriminate traps. This review was never going to resolve the problem, it was, sadly, a wasted opportunity.  Regulations are not a workable solution for something as crude and barbaric as a snare. In short, you can’t regulate cruelty.

“We have long argued that a ban is the only way to eradicate the problems associated with snaring. We will now step up our campaign to convince the Scottish Government to take the common sense approach and ban the manufacture, sale, possession and use of all snares once and for all.”

The League Scotland and OneKind have been critical of SNH’s approach to animal welfare which both charities say has been overlooked in the review process.

Harry Huyton, Director of OneKind added: “The review was an opportunity to assess whether the new snaring regulations had ended the suffering and indiscriminate capture caused by snares.  Yet it was destined to fail from day one due to a bizarre and inadequate remit which specifically excluded considering whether snares have a place at all in a modern Scotland. This, in spite of the fact that they are banned throughout most of Europe. By focusing on illegal snaring and ignoring the bigger question – whether the use of snares is justified in the first place, given the suffering they cause – this review fails to advance the debate.

“We are hugely disappointed that SNH has sought welfare advice on the use of snares from pro-snaring organisations such as the Scottish Gamekeepers Association and the British Association for Shooting and Conservation rather than independent expert evidence to assess whether the aspirations of the Scottish Parliament are being met. We remain convinced that the legislation has not been sufficient to prevent severe animal suffering and will continue to campaign for a complete ban.”

The League Against Cruel Sports Scotland and OneKind have worked together for almost a decade to expose the cruelty of snare use in Scotland developing considerable knowledge and expertise regarding the welfare of wild animals and impact of these primitive, indiscriminate traps over this time.

Mark Ruskell MSP, Environment spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, said:

“This review does nothing other than maintain outdated and inhumane traditions. We need to be moving from a regulatory regime to an outright ban in the interests of animal welfare.

“Today’s response from Scottish Ministers appears to be yet another decision where they have listening more to organisations that want to persecute animals than those who have their welfare at heart.”

Alison Johnstone MSP, vice-convener of Holyrood’s cross-party group on animal welfare, said:

“Snaring causes indiscriminate killing and is hard to monitor. Banning it outright would mean no need for this flawed and barbaric practice. Scottish Ministers must rethink their response.”

Scottish Labour’s spokesperson for Animal Welfare and Environment Claudia Beamish MSP said:

“Scottish Labour called for a consultation on an outright ban on snaring in our Manifesto, because we believe you cannot regulate cruelty to animals.

“The SNP Government’s review was flawed from the start. SNP ministers should have been consulting on an outright ban, not tinkering at the edges on what sort of snares can and can’t be used and how to regulate use. That completely misses the point.”

Article taken from: https://www.league.org.uk/news/scottish-natural-heritage-review-fails-to-consider-a-ban-on-snaring

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Animal Abusers get reprieve as anonymous MP ‘objects’ to progress

Article by Tom Sheppard, League Against Cruel Sports, 28th February 2017:

On Friday, February 24th, there were two pieces of legislation due to be debated in the Commons: Animal Fighting (Sentencing) Bill and Animal Cruelty (Sentencing) Bill. Each had differences, but their essential aims were the same: increase the penalties available to courts for animal cruelty offences.

England and Wales currently have the lowest penalties in Europe for such offences. So it’s difficult to imagine an objection to increasing these penalties.

Some background explanation is important here: on Fridays, Parliament debates legislation introduced by MPs who are not part of the government – i.e. backbench MPs. Parliament sits for about five hours. If any legislation has not had a vote taken in that time, it goes to the back of the queue for debate, effectively meaning it will never be debated. If a bill has not been debated, it could still progress – unless one or more MPs raises an objection. The reasons for objecting could be simple or complicated, relating to the content of the bill – but any objecting MP does not have to explain. They simply have to ‘object’, and the bill does not progress.

Back to last Friday. Two bills had already been debated, and Parliament had run out of time for a debate. So, it came to the animal cruelty bills:

  • “Animal Fighting (Sentencing) Bill”, went the announcement
  • “Object”, came the response

And again for the next bill:

  • “Animal Cruelty (Sentencing) Bill”
  • “Object”

That was all it took. The objection came from the backbenches, a lone voice who decided that the bill should progress no further. Here was legislation which has the support of MPs from all parties. It is supported by not only the League, but also the RSPCA, the Dog’s Trust, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, and the Blue Cross. A Minister from Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has acknowledged that courts say sentences available for dog fighting aren’t strong enough. The cross-party Commons Environment Committee has said that sentences aren’t strong enough.

And now animal abusers will continue to get away with their crimes. In Northern Ireland, when the smirking perpetrators of horrific acts of animal cruelty walked out of court, it sparked the Northern Ireland Executive to strengthen sentences to five years.

Anna Turley, Labour MP for Redcar in North Yorkshire, was moved to begin a campaign on this following an appalling case of animal abuse in her constituency. How many people, like in those cases, are getting away with a slap on the wrist for terrible crimes?

On Friday morning, the League held a photo-op at Westminster with explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes and TOWIE star Chloe Meadows. But the real celebrity there that morning was Cupcake, a Staffordshire bull terrier rescued from dog fighting. Cupcake politely posed for pictures and took the affection of everyone there.

“Object”.

That was all it took for the bill to go no further, but it does not mark the end of the battle for tougher sentences. We don’t know who shouted it, but, unlike Laurence J Peters, we are not looking to attribute blame. Instead, we are beginning a battle – for Cupcake. Vulnerable animals like Cupcake cannot seek justice for themselves, so we do it for them. And we will not stop until we secure that justice.

Article taken from: https://www.league.org.uk/blog/animal-abusers-get-reprieve-as-anonymous-mp-objects-to-progress