Posts Tagged ‘animal welfare’

Animal Rights March

Saturday, January 25th, 2020

I’m 100% against cruelty to animals, including cruelty to human beings, and there is far too much of both going on. But I do have a certain ambivalence about some animal rights protests.

A poster here ‘Say NO to Speciesism’ rather worries me. I see a fellow feeling for your own species as a rather natural thing and certainly not something that prevents you from being, as another poster puts it, ‘Kind to all Kind’. And no other species are “just like us” as the marchers were chanting.

Our species has lived for all its existence with other animals, and have learnt ways to make use of them, some of which are certainly cruel and should be prohibited – such as the fur trade. But we admire animals such as lions who depend for their food on the brutal killing of other species. Nature is a system of many dependencies, of predators and prey and though I would like humans to be civilised and avoid unnecessary suffering, whether for sport or sustenance, I see nothing wrong in continuing to produce and consume animals and diary products etc.

I grew up at a time when many kept chickens in their back yards, and we looked after them. We fed them and ate their eggs they produced, and when they were too old to produce eggs we wrang their necks, plucked the feathers and made them into chicken stew and soups. Certainly we did look after the hens, just as we looked after the bees, feeding them over the lean months with candy so we could extract their honey.

There are of course very good environmental reasons for us to eat less meat, and like many others my diet contains considerably less than it did years ago, lowering my carbon footprint considerably. Most of what we meat we still eat is from UK farms, largely fed on grass and produced to high animal welfare standars and relatively low carbon emissions. We also eat as much local produce as possible, including fruit and vegetables from our own garden and avoid air-freighted produce.

Official Animal Rights March 2019


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Dairy Scary?

Sunday, November 10th, 2019

I don’t know how much of our milk and cheese actually comes from industrial dairy farms like that shown in the picture above.

According to the RSPCA only around 8% of UK milk comes from cows “housed all year round regardless of milk yield, time of calving and so on”. The RSPCA has a lengthy document for farmers setting the RSPCA Welfare Standards for Dairy Cattle, and a shorter and less technical  The welfare of dairy cows information sheet – February 2017 (PDF 654KB) which very much reflects their concern for animal welfare.

Of course these documents are only advisory and again I’m not sure what proportion of our milk and diary products come from farms which follow them, though I suspect it is fairly high. It is very much in farmer’s interests to look after thier animals, and those farmers that I have know personally are very much concerned and involved with them.

I’d like to see welfare standards such as this being legally enforced rather than simply advisory. But to label the whole dairy industry as ‘Scary Dairy’ seems to me misleading. Some of the claims that Viva! and other vegans make simply make no sense; no cow produces enough calves to need the 14,000 pints of milk the average dairy cow provides each year, and there are certainly no calves starving from lack of milk.

Of course farm animals are slaughtered at some point. It is the nature of the beast; farmers breed them only for economic reasons, not to gratify animal lovers (except for those very few kept as pets. They only exist because they produce food and other animal products that farmers can sell. Of course we should have strict laws that eliminate unnecessary suffering governing how animals are killed and ensure that they are enforced.

I remain irredeemably ‘speciesist’. We are in so many respects different from all other species although of course we have much in common, including a high proportion of our DNA, having evolved over thousands and millions of years from other species (which have also evolved, but differently.)

I did my best to photograph the Viva! protest and to caption the images that I filed to represent their views, reporting as objectively as I could. Mostly I chose to photograph things that I view positively, but while I support better animal welfare I think that the approach taken in this campaign is highly emotional and both dishonest and disingenuous.

  There are a few more pictures at Viva! protest Coca-Cola Dairy Farm.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, please share on social media.
And small donations via Paypal – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.


End Live Transport

Monday, October 28th, 2019

My heart sinks when any event I am intending to document is described as a “photo-opportunity”, or, as in this case has clearly been designed as such by someone working in PR. It’s like when someone tells me “this will make a great photograph” and I’m obliged to take some rather pedestrian images, often of large groups doing something not very interesting.

I’m a photographer, and see it as my role to come up with ways to tell the story and not to be told how to see things, often by people who seem bereft of any power of thinking visually. Of course it’s useful if people have made posters and placards, but very few really add to a scene if reproduced in large numbers. Perhaps the only example of those that do I can think of offhand are those produced by David Gentleman for Stop the War protests.

The idea of a poster showing part of a cow’s face that people could hold up in front of them and complete with the left side of their own face wasn’t a bad one, and it works well when photographing one or two people, but doesn’t at least for me for a whole herd. It simply isn’t possible to see what it is meant to be – and I’ve only photographed around half the herd in the picture above.

Cut down the numbers and you can see it beginning to work, but I think the best attempt I managed was the image at the top of this post, with only two people involved.

Perhaps it could have been even better with just one person, but I chose to photograph John Flack, who recently lost his seat as a Conservative MEP with another poster which made clear by its text what the event was about. I know nothing about his background, but to me he looks very much the image of a wealthy farmer, though appearances are often deceptive and Wikipedia informs me that as well as being an active animal welfare campaigner he was a chartered surveyor and a director of various property companies. After a distinct lack of success in his campaigns for parliament and failing to become an MEP for the East of England in both 2009 and 2014 he rose to that status after sitting MEP Vicky Ford was elected as an MP in 2017.

The event marking Stop Live Transport International Awareness Day was a curiously Conservative one, with as well as John Flack, Tory MP Theresa Villiers speaking. Other speakers were Compassion in World Farming CEO Philip Lymbery , Professor Jo Cambridge of Vets Against Live Export and actor Peter Egan .

More at Rally to end Live Animal Transport.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, please share on social media.
And small donations via Paypal – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.


Close all Slaughterhouses?

Thursday, October 24th, 2019

I have nothing against anyone who wishes to be vegan. Although I’m not myself vegan, I think it laudable that some people have chosen to live in this way. For all of us, cutting down the amount of meat we eat is a good thing, probably for ourselves and certainly for the planet. The same is true for diary products, though I think to a lesser extent.

But I can’t agree that we should stop all animal farming and would hate to see the end this would mean to seeing animals grazing in fields, many of which would be unsuitable for growing crops. Grazing animals have an important role in keeping soil healthy, cutting down the need for chemical fertilisers and contributing to biodiversity.

Back in the day successful farmers cared for the animals they farmed and it was in everyone’s interest to treat them well. I’d certainly call for the end to highly intensive farming that now produces meat more cheaply but with great cruelty, and we try to avoid buying meat produced through animal cruelty. But I think it wrong to suggest that all farming of animals is cruel.

Much of the campaigning in the posters and speeches at events such as this is I think misleading, playing on emotional responses to pictures of cute animals. Much also seems to me to fail to understand the basics of the natural world, where many species do prey on other species; what we do in farming animals is a more organised and arguably less cruel extension of this. Foxes may look cuddly in photographs and videos of them playing, but put them among the chickens and you get a bloodbath, nature indeed red in tooth and claw (but of course we shouldn’t make a sport out of hunting foxes.)

The premise of many protesters is that there is no such thing as humane slaughter, and this protest calls for the closure of all slaughterhouses. It unfortunately isn’t had to find examples of cruel practices and to make horrific videos showing them. It’s certainly good that such cruelty is exposed and that the laws that exist against such practices are used with full force to outlaw them – and where necessary that such laws are strengthened. We certainly should try to develop more humane ways to kill animals for food, which I think has been the aim of our previous legislation in the area, but I’d sure this could be improved.

I think all species are inherently “speciesist” and we should not feel any guilt about thinking there is something special about humanity. To suggest that cows or pigs or sheep are “just like us” is simply wrong; in many important ways they are simply not, though of course there is much we share.

Of course some of the claims made are simply wrong. Dairy cows have been extensively bred to produce many times the amount of milk their calves require. We can drink it or use it to make butter and cheese without “stealing it from the calves.” We take honey from the bees (something I’ve certainly done myself) but have to give them sugar to keep the colonies healthy so they will produce more honey for us in following years and so on. As I wrote back in June, “keeping animals and killing them for food or milking them can be done in a decent and humane way and one that has an important contribution to our environment.” Like everything in nature it needs balance.

More pictures at Close all Slaughterhouses.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, please share on social media.
And small donations via Paypal – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.