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Beauty in the Battery Hen

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Impact September 2008 Editorial

The Tory leader David Cameron is committed to have a vote in Parliament to bring back “Hunting with Dogs”. It is therefore important that we publicise this as widely as possible.

We are launching a petition to bring to the attention of the British Public the Tory stance on bringing back “Hunting with Dogs”.

I have enclosed a petition form with this copy of Impact and I urge you to help us collect as many signatures as possible. If you require more forms then please get in touch.

An Ipsos MORI poll, released earlier this year by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), the League Against Cruel Sports and the RSPCA, showed that 73% do not want fox hunting to be made legal again. Eight in ten, 81%, were opposed to bringing back deer hunting, and 82% were opposed to changing the law to allow hare hunting or coursing.

It is good news that the European Commission has at last introduced a draft proposal to ban the import of and trade in seal products throughout the European Union. The seal campaign has been a priority for both LAWS and Respect for Animals and so this was welcome news. We must ensure that the ban will become watertight.

In July this year, the Labour Party National Policy Forum made commitments to a range of new animal welfare policies. This included a commitment to end all whaling; enforcement of the hunting act; and continuing the search for alternatives to the use of animals in laboratories. In addition to this, the NPF voted to label all real fur garments. If these policies are endorsed by the Labour Party at national conference in September they will become part of the party’s manifesto for the next election. It is important that your Constituency Delegate to Labour Party Conference supports these proposals.

Wally Burley, Editor & Chair
Labour Animal Welfare Society

PS The headline comes from a leaflet used by the Labour Party in 1999 Eddisbury By-election.
Andy Ottaway, Campaign Whale

When Japan announced last year that they intended to expand their spurious Antarctic ‘scientific’ whale hunt to include 50 humpback and 50 fin whales, in addition to the 935 minke whales already targeted, it provoked a political storm. It would represent the single biggest whale slaughter since commercial whaling was banned some 22 years ago.

Recently the International Whaling Commission (IWC) has remained deadlocked over the development of a Revised Management Scheme (RMS), essentially a set of rules that will govern any future resumption of commercial whaling. Many governments believe that the RMS must be as robust as many other contemporary fisheries management regimes, with tough monitoring and enforcement provisions to ensure the strictest adherence to quotas, and with tough penalties for non-compliance.

The whalers, on the other hand, make no concessions to the anti-whaling lobby, content perhaps to continue to exploit the loopholes in the Whaling Convention, such as killing whales for ‘research’, that have allowed them to conduct virtually unrestricted ‘business as usual’ during the whaling ban. Clearly, they see little reason to agree to any RMS that would seriously restrict their activities, and profits.

Over the years, the deadlock over the RMS has provoked several attempts to broker some kind of compromise deal that would lift the whaling ban, justified by the argument that the IWC must regain control over whaling. As the whalers have never respected IWC decisions, including the existing moratorium on commercial whaling, there is no justification for a compromise that is more about saving the IWC, than the whales.

The Japanese have made it perfectly clear that their decision to hold fire on the humpbacks depends on ‘satisfactory’ progress being made in these talks.

Having failed to agree a RMS, essential to any agreement on a resumption of commercial whaling, the Commission has found itself in crisis. The whaling nations: Japan, Iceland and Norway are killing escalating numbers of whales each year by exploiting legal loopholes in the Convention, despite the ongoing moratorium on commercial hunting.

In what appears to be a desperate attempt to regain some credibility the IWC invited a team of expert international negotiators to try and establish a process through which the Commission might resolve its seemingly intractable problems. With little progress made in London much, not least the fate of 50 humpback whales, was resting on the outcome of the IWC’s 60th annual meeting held in Santiago in June.

As it turned out, this meeting was carefully orchestrated by the US Chair of the Commission to try and avoid any controversy and so smooth the path to a peace deal. Indeed, the meeting passed off as one of the quietest in years and, apart from refusing to sanction a completely unjustified quota of 10 humpbacks each year for Greenlandic hunters, much to Denmark’s anger, no contentious votes were taken, or resolutions passed.

What is becoming clear is that many countries want to see an end to Japan’s ‘scientific’ whaling because it is this loophole that would prevent any future management plan from working, simply because countries could ‘top up’ smaller quotas with whales killed for so-called ‘research’. A potential deal is emerging which would not even achieve that. It is based on the idea of giving Japan a coastal whaling quota in return for some agreed limit placed on so-called ‘scientific’ whaling catches. Another proposed trade-off would make the entire southern hemisphere a whale sanctuary.

However, this would expose some of the most threatened whale populations in the northern hemisphere to renewed whaling. It would not address the inherent cruelty of whaling either, and perhaps worst of all it would effectively reward the whaling nations for defying the Commission for all these years.

What is deeply worrying about all this is the amount of political support there seems to be for a compromise deal on whaling in the first place. With the delegates in Chile identifying no less than 33 issues that they consider an integral part of any final agreement, ranging from animal welfare issues to whale-watching, it seems that both sides of the whaling dispute are as far apart as ever.
In Santiago, a coalition of campaign groups called on the IWC to refocus its efforts away from the mass slaughter of whales to a future devoted to the protection of all whales and their environment.

It is vital that governments work together if we are to stem the tide of extinction. Sadly, while IWC Members argue over the rights and wrongs of killing these magnificent animals, hundreds of thousands of the world’s smallest whales, dolphins and porpoises are being ruthlessly hunted, or trapped in fishing nets, with many populations, even entire species, being driven to extinction. These so-called ‘small’ cetaceans receive no protection at all. Tragically last year the first whale species, the baiji, or Chinese river dolphin, was declared functionally extinct. The vaquita, a tiny porpoise only found in the Gulf of California, is critically endangered, but is still dying in fishermen’s nets and may soon follow the baiji into oblivion. Yet IWC Member States have become so embittered and divided over whaling that they cannot even agree to work together to save some of the most endangered species of whales from extinction.

Shockingly, the Japanese Government is so desperate to expand the whale meat market throughout the country, that even though the meat from the dolphin and porpoise hunts is heavily contaminated with toxic pollutants, it is being promoted to be regularly included in school lunches.

A further 16,875 Dall’s porpoises have been targeted by Japanese fishermen for slaughter this year.

Our Government must do more to help persuade Japan to stop this appalling slaughter, and potential public health disaster, before it is too late.

Let’s save the whales and not whaling!

For further information and campaign donations please visit Campaign Whale.
Mark Glover, Respect for Animals

Although many retailers now refuse to stock real fur (Marks & Spencer, TopShop, John Lewis, Zara, Sainsburys, Selfridges, Harvey Nichols and others) real fur is still sold in the UK. Often it is not labelled as such as there is no legal requirement for fur to be labelled as real. This means consumers can be mislead into buying real fur believing to be fake.

Focus group work shows that most people believe that the fur they see on sale in the High Street is fake when it may not be. Many shop staff also make that assumption.

Some fake fur is now of such high quality that it is almost impossible to tell from the real thing. Labels on garments trimmed with fur may well only refer to the main body of a garment and not the fur trim on it. Often shop staff have no more to go on than garment labels. Price is no guide either: many people believe that real fur is unaffordable but it can be found on items costing the same as those trimmed with or containing fake fur.

The only way for consumers to be able to make positive purchasing decisions when it comes to fur is if there is a legal requirement to label fur as real.

Please write to your MP asking him to support forthcoming legislation on this issue and to sign Early Day Motion 927 that calls for real fur labeling. If you are buying clothing made of or trimmed with fake fur but are unable to determine if it is fake or real, please:

1. Give the animals the benefit of the doubt and don’t buy it complain to the retailer explaining that they have lost a sale because of poor labeling/customer service.
2. Write to Gareth Thomas MP, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, 1 Victoria Street, London SW1H 0ET urging him to bring in legislation as soon as possible to protect your rights as a consumer.

A significant number of voters look at animal welfare policies when deciding how to vote.

The Labour Party has a good record of achievement in this area but it is important that it remains committed to animal welfare issues.

In July of this year, the Labour Party National Policy Forum made commitments to a range of animal welfare policies including commitments to end all whaling, enforcement of the hunting act and continuing the search for alternatives to the use of animals in laboratories.

In addition to this the Forum voted to label all real fur garments. If these policies are endorsed by the Labour Party at national conference in September they will form become part of the party’s manifesto for the next election.
Andrew Howard, IFAW

Today whales, dolphins and other marine animals face a variety of man-made threats including hunting, ship strikes, chemical pollution, entanglement in fishing gear and issues arising from climate change. On top of these comes another increasing threat, as insidious and pervasive as it is invisible – ocean noise pollution.

In the dark marine environment sound is king. Sound travels nearly fives times faster in water than in air and at low frequencies can invade thousands of square kilometres in seconds.

Marine animals, particularly cetaceans – whales, dolphins and porpoises – rely on sound to navigate, communicate, detect mates and predators, maintain group cohesion and find food.

Ocean noise is a chronic form of pollution involving the disturbance of the marine environment through human activity. The main sources of ocean noise pollution are commercial shipping, military sonar, seismic surveys for oil and gas prospecting, off-shore construction (e.g. drilling, dredging and explosions) and recreational activities (e.g. boating).

The broad range of frequencies used by marine animals intersects with many of the sounds produced by these man-made sources. By interfering with and drowning out the crucial sound-based systems of marine animals, ocean noise pollution can adversely affect the ability of these animals to behave normally and survive.

On top of blocking cetacean communication channels, ocean noise pollution has been linked to behavioral changes in cetaceans, such as the abandonment of preferred habitat and of vital activities such as feeding.

In the most extreme cases, noises at certain frequencies can cause cetaceans to surface too quickly, strand and die. Since the 1960s there has been a growing body of evidence directly linking military sonar exercises to the mass strandings and deaths of cetaceans, particularly beaked whales.

Given the adverse effects ocean noise can have on cetaceans and other marine animals and the vast number of noise sources in UK waters, IFAW is concerned that such noise is not designated as a form of pollution that is regulated in UK legislation. This lack of legislative recognition of such a potent source of marine pollution means that marine animals are currently not afforded the protection they deserve.

IFAW is therefore urging LAWS members and Conference delegates to write to the Environment Secretary, Hilary Benn MP and Marine Minister Jonathan Shaw MP (Defra, Customer Contact Unit, Eastbury House, 30 – 34 Albert Embankment, London SE1 7TL) to urge that they ensure the forthcoming Marine Bill protects whales, dolphins and other marine animals from ocean noise by recognising it as a pollutant and introducing regulations to prevent or mitigate its harmful effects.
Andy Ottway, Campaign Whale

In May of this year two decapitated bodies were found on a beach on the Isle of Skye. They were common seals, one a pregnant female, the other a juvenile animal, both had been shot.

Marine Harvest, a Norwegian owned company, that operates a nearby salmon farm, admitted to the shootings which are perfectly legal under existing laws for the supposed ‘conservation’ of seals.

In 1988, Labour lifted a ban on the shooting of common seals despite the objections of conservation and animal welfare groups. Now, scientific evidence has shown a massive decline in their numbers off Scotland, involving the loss of thousands of animals. Worryingly, the cause of this decline is unknown, but the shooting of seals must certainly have played its part.

This year a coalition of seventeen UK- based animal protection and welfare groups, led by the Seal Preservation Action Group, are calling on UK retailers to insist that their suppliers of Scottish salmon do not shoot seals and other wildlife. We are also calling for the urgent revision or replacement of the Conservation of Seals Act (1970) in order to gain greater protection for the UK’s globally important populations of gray and common seals. Current legislation is little more than a licence to shoot seals, and an estimated 3-5,000 seals are shot each year by fishermen, fish farmers and salmon angling interests.

Last Conference, the coalition asked Party members to write to both the UK and Scottish Ministers responsible for Environment and Animal Welfare calling for a new Seal Protection Act to replace this outdated legislation. We believe it is perfectly possible to protect farmed fish, without killing wildlife, including seals. Unfortunately, all too often a bullet is preferred as the cheaper option.

The campaign to ban the import of seal products into Europe in protest over Canada’s abhorrent seal cull has attracted huge support, and rightly so. It would be tragically hypocritical of this Labour Government and the Scottish Executive if they did not take this opportunity to stop the routine slaughter of our own seal population.

If you would like to help our campaign please write to the relevant Ministers calling for the protection of our seals. They are:

Lord Rooker
Minister for Animal Welfare
17 Smith Square
London
SW1P 3JR

Richard Lochhead MSP
Environment and Rural Affairs
Scottish Parliament
Edinburgh
EH99 1SP

For further information please visit Seal Action.
The aim of the Bill is to create a framework to manage growing and competing demands for the use of marine resources in the seas around Scotland, balancing environmental and socio-economic considerations to maximise economic growth within sustainable environmental limits” the Bill will:

* Create a statutory marine planning framework with distinct national and regional structures;
* Facilitate streamlining of marine licensing and marine consents and therefore a reduction in regulatory burden;
* Contain provisions for the establishment of Marine Protected Areas and the introduction of Marine Conservation Orders as appropriate for the management of the Areas;
* Repeal the Conservation of Seals Act 1970 and introduce a license regime appropriate for the management of seals in Scottish waters;
* Provide for a range of common enforcement powers applicable to both the enforcement of licensing and conservation; and
* Contain provisions to allow the Scottish Ministers to make orders or regulations under the Act.

Rural Affairs and Environment Committee has issued a call for views, inviting individuals and interested parties to submit views on the Bill in writing. The Committee is interested to hear the views of all organisations, bodies and individuals on the proposals contained within the Bill and their likely impact. Comments do not have to cover all aspects of the Bill, only those proposals which are of interest or concern. The closing date for written submissions is Thursday 11 June 2009. Ideally submissions should not exceed four sides of A4. paper. The Committee expects to take oral evidence during May, June and September 2009.

We believe it is perfectly possible to protect farmed fish, without killing wildlife, including seals. Unfortunately, all too often a bullet is preferred as the cheaper option. It is important that members and organisations submit view which is opposed to the shooting of seals in Scotland .

For further information contact Andy Ottaway, The Seal Protection Action Group. Address: PO Box 2673, Lewes, East Sussex, BN8 5BZ, UK Tel: 01273 471403. The Seal Protection Action Group is a Scottish registered charity (SC017447) dedicated to protecting seals and their environment worldwide.
(You can bet this will be in the Tory Education Plans)

Article from The Daily Telegraph (15 May 2009) reported that the Countryside Alliance calls for children to be taught about blood sports.

It said that Hunting, shooting and fishing should be included in the national curriculum as part of a drive to educate children about the countryside, according to campaigners.

The Countryside Alliance believes children should be taught about every aspect of rural life, from food production to pest control, as well as being offered outdoor pursuits such as clay pigeon shooting, horse-riding and fishing. The lobby group is calling on the government to create a new subject area of outdoor education that children could be assessed on throughout school, including at GCSE level .Alternatively, schools could incorporate outdoor activities into other subjects, for example farm visits in geography, beekeeping in biology or even falconry to learn about weights in a maths class. It is part of a rural manifesto calling for affordable housing and improved services in rural areas, a repeal of the Hunting Act, more support for farmers and improved outdoor education in schools. Rob Gray, Campaigns Director of the Countryside Alliance, said children should be taught about traditional country sports like clay pigeon shooting and fishing and given the opportunity to take part. He also said they should be educated about hunting with dogs, even though it has been made illegal, by visiting kennels and finding out about the sport within the law.

“Whatever your view of it, hunting, shooting and fishing and country pursuits are part of the living working countryside in which hundreds of thousands of people take part and are employed,” he said. “We should not cherry pick just the cuddly bunny bits [of rural life], teachers and children should be able to get an insight into the what goes on in the countryside – from country pursuits to food production – and then make up their own minds.” However Christine Blower, General Secretary National Union of Teachers, said efforts to get more children enjoying the outdoors should be led by the teaching establishment rather than a pressure group. “The decision should be taken at school level with heads and teachers deciding the appropriateness of it,” she said.

Louise Robertson of the League Against Cruel Sports, said children should not be taught about blood sports. “We would not support encouraging young children to go out and shoot animals for fun,” she said. “I would much rather the school curriculum focuses on areas like maths and English.”

Labour Animal Welfare Society is opposed to the introduction of these proposals in Schools. However, it would not be surprising if the Tories win the next General Election that they would support this. They have already indicated that if they get into power they will repeal the Hunting with Dogs Act, and also Cull Badgers.

Chris Gale NEC member Labour Animal Welfare Society
Oliver Edwards

Many will be familiar with the phasing out of battery cages for hens; a culmination of much hard work by animal welfare charities. Moving away from the appalling ‘factory line’ conditions can only be a positive step. What fewer may be aware of is that over the next few years this welcome change will result in thousands of ex battery hens being released. The majority will sadly end up being killed but thanks to the efforts of the Devon based charity Battery Hen Welfare Trust, others will be given a new lease of life.

Having kept chickens in our garden over a number of years, they are surprisingly easy to look after and low maintenance. Our former brood of hens gradually died off one by one with age until only one elderly hen was left-Queen of her roost. We had read about the ex battery hens being released from a farm near Guildford and so this seemed like an ideal time to give them a home and some company for our elderly hen. Having gone through several checks, we went to the farm and collected three hens-all fairly scruffy and scrawny, with bad feathers. The first few days were filled with new experiences; being able to roam outdoors, soil, nest boxes and a perch, and the intrigue/fascination was incontainable. During this learning process, they discovered that laying eggs in a nest box is more comfortable than on a hard floor or wherever you happen to be standing, that those insects or ‘bits’ in the grass could be tasty and that sometimes food moves. Slowly they started copying ‘mother hen’ and as their leg muscles started to strengthen, they made it up on to the perch to join her at night. The improving weather has allowed them to discover the joys of a dust bath together, the intrigue that lies behind the gate to the garden should it be left open, or the taste of seaweed and shrimps on the nearby beach.

Each day continues to bring new experiences but watching them enjoy freedom and expanding their limitless curiosity is an endlessly worthwhile, even if they may only be three hens out of thousands. On a practical note, we have an endless supply of free range eggs which continue to improve from the sterile, artificial battery eggs they were intended before to produce for life. So if you have ever considered having chickens, there has never been a better time with the surplus numbers around at the moment and the thousands of hens currently being destroyed. They are not as difficult to look after as you might imagine and any extra space they have is an improvement upon the miserable conditions they have learned to take for granted. There has never been a better chance to watch the transformation from egg producing machines into the curious, lively, affectionate birds they can be.

To find out more, check out the website www.bhwt.org.uk or call 01362 822904.

Stop Press: 10,000 hens need re-homing from battery farm in Norfolk which is closing-down. If you would like a hen or two or know someone who would please contact littlehenrescue@googemail.com

Any not re-homed by 28 June will be slaughtered.