A significant change may be occurring in Britain concerning awareness of the exploitation of animals. We reported in our last issue how the large Ferry Companies were refusing to handle the transport of farm animals across the Channel, due to the number of protests they had been receiving. This meant that exports were routed through smaller ports and through airports where the huge transporter lorries were more visible and their sad cargoes more easily observed. Compassion In World Farming, which has long been campaigning against Live Exports rallied activists to highlight these alternative outlets, some of which were closed or temporarily delayed.
Such activities are not new and rarely newsworthy for the media, except for an occasional mention. Committed campaigners, mostly vegan or at least vegetarian, no longer hit the headlines, but the media have rightly picked up a new angle: the numbers of protesters were swelled by a mass of ordinary local people, often middle-aged and 'respectable', who saw the pathetic procession of lorries and their pitiful prisoners going through their towns. For the first time in their lives they felt impelled to join a protest, something they had never thought of doing before. Their eyes have also been opened to another aspect of modern life: the riot police reacting with unreasonable violence to put down a peaceful protest.
But the protests have never stopped and have been maintained through winter months of harsh weather by these same local people motivated mainly by compassion for the young calves, whom they see as young babies torn away unreasonably from their mothers' care within days of birth. "We are not vegetarian or vegan", they say "but we think that this is cruel and should be stopped". The quickest, surest way to stop this trade would be to give up cow's milk. Without the consumer demand, the whole sordid trade would collapse and no government support could keep it going. The Vegan Society has appropriately produced a new leaflet "Poor Calf".
One can see a parallel with the determined protests against building roads that destroy areas of natural beauty and a government admittance that they will have to limit the building of further roads. We must hope that the continued protests on Live Exports will result in a similar government rethink. The Minister of Agriculture, under pressure at home, met his European colleagues to try to persuade them to limit journey times and ban veal crates. He was not successful, although promises were made to review the situation sometime. Claims that Britain is not allowed to stop the trade because of an obligation to allow free trading between European member states have been refuted by some legal opinions that assert the trade could be banned on moral grounds. An attempt by a Member of Parliament to have the subject debated in the House of Commons was 'talked out' in a clear act of contempt for the democratic process.
Feelings run high when the demonstrators see a lorry approach. One young man had his life saved by a policeman who snatched him from in front of a lorry at the risk of his own life. Tragically, a young vegan mother and dedicated animal rights campaigner, Jill Phipps, much loved by her friends, rushed at a lorry but accidentally slipped and was run over. Her funeral was held at Coventry Cathedral and attracted many known personalities including Brigitte Bardot, the former film star, now dedicated animal rights defender.
But the protests continue and still attract media interest. The animal exporters are determined to continue their trade, which they claim to be a legal activity, often obtaining court orders to have ports re-opened after the port authorities have refused to allow them facilities. The port of Dover, which provides the cheapest route, had refused to admit exports of live animals due to the disruption they attract from protesters. Now the exporters have obtained a court order to force them to accept these shipments. They will, however, try to limit the number of days when shipments can be accepted. Some police forces are also limiting the number of days in which they will provide police support, due mainly to the heavy cost of this policing and also the neglect of other duties as police are drawn away from routine duties.
What will be the final outcome? The struggle is not over, but it seems set to continue for quite a while and many otherwise normal people seem determined not to let the matter drop but will endure the disruption of their usual lives until they see that these helpless victims of human callousness are given at least a fairer deal.
Farmers protest at this threat to their livelihood, but many other sections of the population are having to rethink their jobs and retrain into more modern ways. Farmers are fortunate in that there will always be a demand for food. They have a great opportunity to develop into vegetable production and maybe bring down the cost of organically produced vegetables for which there would seem to be a strong demand and they might even end up growing veganically!
A VET'S OPINION
From the Newsletter of The Custodians (Kent Place, Lechlade, Glos. GL7 3AW) comes this assessment by a local vet who inspected livestock cargo at Shoreham Harbour:
The animals being transported from the Port of Shoreham on the Northern Cruiser are transported in road vehicles on board ship.
This transport provides multideck compartments which as I have witnessed are filled to a density which makes the individual examination of any animal during transit in practical terms impossible.
As a consequence the veterinary examination of the consignment at the dockside is restricted to a cursory check to see whether all animals in transit are standing and not exhibiting a distressed respiratory pattern. The Welfare of Animals in Transit Order 1994 requires that where animals are transported by sea there shall be provision for the isolation of ill or injured animals during the voyage and for first aid treatment to be given. Further, where animals are transported in road vehicles on board ship, direct access must be provided to each part of the animals compartment so that the animals can if necessary be cared for.
I have been advised that there is no provision for the isolation of ill or injured animals off the road vehicles
and I have witnessed no vehicle which has a compartment at each deck level which could provide isolation for the
care of injury or illness. Indeed the number of animals at each level of the triple deck vehicles ensures that an
attempt to isolate one sick or injured animal would risk causing injury or distress to the remainder. This is a
state of affairs which clearly breaches the 1994 welfare of Animals in Transit Order.
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Cross-reference: Animal Rights
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