How many of us will be making New Year’s resolutions to pay more attention to the welfare of animals we eat and the wildlife in our countryside?
On 1st January 2012, the EU-wide ban on selling eggs from battery farms will come into force. Although in other EU nations (including the land of le Coq, France), the ban will hardly be rigorously enforced because they don’t seem to care that much for EU laws and haven’t yet made the necessary alterations to farms and cages, and the new, larger ‘enriched cages’ which will be used to supply our biggest supermarkets with eggs are not exactly a massive liberation for hens, it is nevertheless a step in the right direction, and an expression in law that we should not be tolerating these cruel means of achieving ‘efficiency’ in food production.
Unfortunately, however, this change will come at the same time as renewed calls for a repeal of the Hunting Ban. On Boxing Day, the Agriculture Minister, Jim Paice, suggested as much by arguing that the act is ‘unworkable’ and difficult to enforce. Although sadly this is in many respects the case, and it would be naive to say that the ban ended the inhumane and uncivilised ‘sport’ of fox hunting completely, it is still an expression of disapproval which should remain on the statute books for ever if we are to carry on calling ourselves an ‘animal loving nation’.
The visit by long-term animal rights campaigner and shadow minister Chris Williamson to BULS last term reminded us that the fight for even the most basic animal welfare is far from over, and that 2012 can only be a good year for animal welfare if we go out and fight against the vested interests of the food industry and those who seek a return of legalised fox hunting, in government and elsewhere. Just because a law has pitfalls and loopholes, that does not mean that the fundamentals behind it are not right, and that we cannot aim to tighten it and increase the number of prosecutions in future.
2012 need not be the year that the cause of animal rights takes a giant leap backwards.