from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Sunday, 27 March 2016

of animals 2: downturn in welfare

(Post thunder and lightning): I knew there was something else I wanted to speak of; and that's the Government's stated intention to scrap animal welfare codes in the farming industry. Instead – get this – the industry will regulate itself. You can see where that will go, can't you: only downwards. I am despairing.

We have supposedly some of the best animal welfare standards in the world, and it is still appalling. Battery hens still only have a cage the size of a sheet of A4 paper; one-day old male chicks are minced alive, or gassed, or suffocated in plastic bags; breeding sows are still kept in in tiny metal breeding stalls (and it's said the piglets are dropped through metal bars onto conveyor belts); veal calves are taken from their mothers at a few days of age and raised in the dark, in small areas, for all of their short lives; and mares are kept pregnant, in confined spaces, in order to produce the hormone used to make HRT for menopausal women (it is NOT necessary, folks; go the herbal route; contact me, or better still, search the web, for more info) – hence some of the brand names (eg Premarin). This is our 'high welfare'.

As John Vidal said in yesterday's Guardian (March 26, 2016), the plans may knock a penny or two off an already-cheap chicken, but are likely – quite apart from all the welfare issues – to see the continued disruption of health scares.

How can deregulation do anything other than intensify the conditions, ripe for disease, in which already-intensive animal farming rears its victims?

Vidal points out that 'it was the total failure of the industry ability to regulate itself that led to last year's chicken bug scandal when [it was found] that nearly 8 out of 10 fresh chickens bought from British supermarkets were contaminated with the potentially lethal food-poisoning bug campylobacter, costing the NHS nearly £900m... more than 240,000 people a year were getting ill and up to 100 were dying... Salmonella in eggs, BSE in cattle, foot-and-mouth disease* and swine flu – all followed cuts in animal welfare standards or inspection services.'

This is Liz Truss' drive. Vidal points out that under TTIP, if it happens, there will be a downfall in food and farming standards; the US agribusiness will be exporting to Europe animal products from a farming system with much lower welfare and hygiene standards than our own.

If we exit the EU, then clearly, as he states, our welfare standards are likely to fall, anyway.

Whichever way you look at it, animals will suffer more. Chances are humans who eat them will, too. We cannot let this happen. There are, hooray, greater numbers of people becoming vegetarian for a range of reasons: animal welfare, personal health, budget, awareness of the environmental cost, and the enormous and inefficient demand for land and water to produce such a small amount of food for a burgeoning population. More people, too, are looking at vegan options.

But we have a VERY long way to go before we can be proud of the way we relate to animals. (As TM said yesterday: many people unthinkingly consider them really to be automata, more or less.)

Meantime, we need to challenge, at the very least, this proposed downgrading of animal welfare and the knock-on effects on humans.

If anyone knows of a petition started up to protest this, please add it to the Comments. If it doesn't happen, I might just have to start one myself.

And you could also write to your MP?

March 30th: here's the link to the petition:


* Foot-and-mouth disease: I documented this as it happened in Devon, and in fictional form but with factual accuracy it forms part of my last novel, The Burning Ground.


  1. As I read this shocking article I knew you'd be doing the same then blogging. Thank you for delivering the goods! I'll talk to our son who's a member of the vegan society, joins their demos, helps to spread their leaflets. Shall ask him if he knows of a petition and I'm sure one will appear soon anyway. I felt hopelessly depressed reading Vidal's article but so glad that it was there, even if it is preaching to the converted – always worth doing. Remember the issue about forests being privatised some years back? Such an outcry reversed the decision, I seem to remember. So there is hope, perhaps. Another reason to escape this gvmt and flee to Scotland! (It's why we considered moving there ourselves after last year's election.)

    Very interesting earlier blog too. So sorry about Ash. You're doing everything possible.
    Thanks an drove, Miriam.

  2. Thank you as always, Miriam, for the support. It's very good to know we're not alone, isn't it?

    And I didn't know that was part of the reason for your checking out Scotland. Can empathise completely (plus they have other sound policies and principles: no tuition fees, no prescription charges, no fracking (as far as I know), and more. (Do I remember free elderly health care?)

    And yes, you're right: public outcry has good results these days; a positive use of the internet.

    See you soon on the island!

    With love



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