Two nations of animal lovers


The ancient Romans would have said that they were a nation of animal lovers. They doted on their household pets. Roman literature contains stories of dogs who were not just watchdogs but also much loved companions, and of pet starlings who were taught to talk by their adoring owners.

But these same devoted pet owners would visit the arena, where they would watch other animals – leopards, giraffes, antelopes, elephants – slaughtered for sport. Religious festivals, such as the mid-winter festival of Saturnalia, also involved the slaughter of animals, as sacrifices to the gods. The Romans seemed to see no connection between these animals, and their cherished pets.

We condemn the Romans as hypocrites, but are we in any position to judge?

The British are a nation of animal lovers. Like the Romans, we adore our household pets. Unlike the Romans, we do not slaughter animals in the arena for entertainment.

But many millions of pheasants are shot for “sport” in Britain each year. Far more than the number of animals killed each year in the arena in ancient Rome. It is true that most British people disapprove of pheasant shooting, and have nothing to do with it. Yet most just try not to think about it, rather than campaigning to try to stop it.

There are other sports in which animals are not deliberately killed, but which result in many accidental deaths and injuries of animals each year, and cause great suffering even to those who survive. Most people probably disapprove of greyhound racing, but as with pheasant shooting, do nothing to try to stop it. But many are not even aware of the cruelty involved in horse racing, despite the many deaths of horses, and the fact that horses are routinely whipped to make them run faster.

At least we do not sacrifice animals at religious festivals, do we? But Christmas, the mid-winter festival that is, in many ways, a continuation of Saturnalia by another name, involves the slaughter of ten million turkeys in Britain each year. The vast majority are reared as part of “factory farming”, spending the whole of their short lives in overcrowded, windowless sheds. At least the Roman animals slaughtered at Saturnalia had probably spent time outdoors, with some space to move about, and some chance to follow the sort of behaviour that was natural to them.

I’m sure some ancient Romans were distressed by the slaughter of animals in the arena, but felt that it would be inappropriate to speak out in defence of the animals to be slaughtered on Saturday, in view of the fact that the “entertainment” on Sunday would consist of human beings forced to fight each other to the death. And there are many today who consider that it is inappropriate to focus on animal rights, when there are so many violations of human rights that we should be concerning ourselves with.

But I am sure ancient Roman children were first hardened to bloodshed by the spectacle of animal slaughter, and as a result, soon went on to accept the slaughter of humans in the arena without question too. And if we, today, allow ourselves to become desensitised to animal suffering, it is likely that we will also become less capable of feeling compassion for our fellow humans.

As a party, we should lead the way, and start a debate on rights and freedoms for animals.



* Catherine Crosland is a member in Calderdale and joined the party in 2014

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  • Lorenzo Cherin 12th Dec '16 - 6:22pm


    As someone who is British and half Italian and a vegetarian , this is terrific!

    We often find ourselves in agreement . I do too with Mark above regularly. I , like him, would welcome any policy proposals.

    Between us we might not necessarily agree on all aspects. I for example do not want a ban on vivisection but I do want it limited to life and death discoveries in science.

    Mark is a scientist . It would be interesting to hear that perspective.

    I favour a ban on circus animals . But , as someone in the arts and performing arts, I am aware that a good circus or production company might be more caring than a bad zoo. And yet I would not want a ban on zoos as they also protect wildlife . But how well ?

    Many other ideas and topics relate to the food industry and farming and fishing.

    We must not forget our leader , too ,is a vegetarian !

  • I agree that future generations will see ours as ignorant for accepting the way chickens and foxes (two examples) are treated, but this article seems to go beyond this and I’m not sure I’m clear enough on the detail to make a further comment.

    After grammar schools this government’s next pet project seems to be animal hunting for sport, I hope any kind of animal cruelty for sport can be challenged and re-assessed with our greater understanding and technology.

  • Thank you for this article Catherine. I was born into a vegetarian household at a time when most people had never encountered someone who didn’t eat meat so I had to get used to defending myself at school. But I was wrong. Being a vegetarian doesn’t absolve you from responsibility for animal cruelty. I began to realise that in middle age and stopped eating eggs, but it was not until my daughter took me to a vegan fair that I fully realised that if one is concerned about the exploitation of animals then veganism is the only logical response. I only claim to aspire to be a vegan – I don’t check how my pint of beer was produced or forgo a woollen jumper. I don’t proselytise – how anyone chooses to live their life is their decision – and consequently I don’t see a role for political parties (even the Green Party) in this area. Sure, campaigns to ameliorate ‘animal cruelty’ contribute to raising a general awareness of animal rights which can only be positive, but the bottom line is that it is only tokenistic.

  • Hi Catherine – like Mark I would like to hear what you propose? I agree that factory farming is inhumane, but would it be acceptable to you if all turkeys were free range and outdoor reared? I suspect not – after all the pheasants live outdoors too. The only difference is that the pheasants are (mostly) killed for fun rather than food.

    To be honest, I don’t think most of the general public have strong opinions either way on pheasant shooting or greyhound racing.

  • The British aren’t animal lovers. If you want proof, try taking your well behaved pet dog into a shopping centre. The British hate animals, especially pets, almost as much as they hate children.

  • Chris,
    Bigotry and broad unsupportable racially directed statements are not an attractive trait. Why they pass uncommented upon when aimed at the British is beyond me.

  • Catherine – A really great article. I write as father of a 5th year Veterinary student (and a vegetarian), with two of my other three children also being “veggies”.
    I would ask my trainee vet son Dan to add to/comment on your excellent piece however he has a very busy 10 days coming up in the run up to the Christmas Hols ……

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 13th Dec '16 - 8:25am

    Thank you to all of you who have commented so far. You have made some very thought provoking points.
    Mark Wright and Nick Baird, I’m sorry if my article did not seem to give solutions to the issues I mentioned. The suggested word count for a Lib Dem Voice article meant that it seemed best to focus on opening a debate, rather than attempting to give all the answers, but I’ll try to make some suggestions now.
    I feel that we should ban the shooting of birds for sport. I do not understand why this cruel sport is still tolerated, although fox hunting has been banned. People may assume that shooting is a quick, humane death. This is not the case. It is estimated that about forty percent of birds that are shot are injured rather than killed outright. Often they are not found, so they are left to die a slow, lingering death.
    The vast majority of greyhounds used for racing are kept in conditions that would be considered completely unacceptable for a pet dog. I think we should either ban greyhound racing, or at least suspend it until the industry can give guarantees about improving the welfare and safety of the animals involved.
    Horses used for racing are kept in better conditions than racing greyhounds, but they are subjected to considerable danger and stress during the actual racing. It would probably be going to far to suggest banning horse racing, but there need to be much stricter rules to improve the welfare and safety of the horses. There should be an immediate ban on the use of the whip.
    In farming, we should be aiming for an end to “factory farming”, and moving towards all farm animals being free range.
    It would be useful if we could agree on a list of “freedoms” to which all animals should have an inalienable right. I would suggest that these should include freedom from unnecessary stress, and the freedom to follow, as far as possible, the sort of behavior that they would follow in the wild.

  • Catherine – I am a brand new member and I am quite reassured to see this sort of issue being debated. I should state at the outset that I am not a vegetarian and have no plans to become one (I rather agree with the gist of tonyhill’s post above on this). I am even dubious about the concept of `animal rights` per se. ( since rights are a prt of human citizenship, and come with reponsibilities).

    I do, however, believe in animal WELFARE and that the party should have some bold policies in place to advance this cause. There are already a number of pressure groups – such as Compassion in World Farming – that raise some of the issues that you do. Those concerned with this should work in tandem with them and with groups within the party to suggest policy proposals. And remember: don’t just criticise but suggest alternatives – such as the use of chemical cells as an alternative to animal testing of drugs (or even G.M `test tube` meat as an alternative to animal slaughter!)

    On a more immediate level, let’s see the party taking the Tories to task over fox hunting and badger culling. To do so would gain broad support – with even the likes of Rod Liddle speaking out against the latter.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 13th Dec '16 - 8:45am

    Lorenzo, thank you for your comments. I am glad that you have mentioned the issues of circus animals, zoos, and vivisection. I would have liked to have included these issues in my article, but the recommended word count for Lib Dem Voice articles meant that I had to limit myself to mentioning just a few issues, while hoping to open a wider debate about all animal welfare issues.
    Like you, I think we should ban the use of animals in circuses. Also, like you, I would not want to ban zoos. But we do look at ways of improving the welfare of animals in zoos. As I mentioned in my comment above, I feel that we should agree to a list of “freedoms” – inalienable rights to which all animals should be entitled. One of these should be the right to follow, as far as possible, the sort of behaviour they would follow in the wild. The best zoos do all they can to achieve this. But there are some animals for whom it is almost impossible to follow their natural behaviour in a zoo setting. Some zoos have made the decision not to keep elephants, for example, because their natural behaviour of roaming across large areas, living in large groups, are not possible in a conventional zoo setting. We should encourage a move away from conventional zoos in which animals are kept in cages, towards safari parks, in which people can observe animals living in much more natural, free range conditions.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 13th Dec '16 - 8:51am

    Following my comments about the rights and freedoms of animals, I feel that the best way to think about rights for farm animals, animals used for sports, or animals in zoos, is to compare their treatment with the way we treat our pets. Household pets are usually treated very well. We take for granted that our responsibilities as pet owners go far beyond just ensuring that our pets have enough to eat and drink. We also make sure they have plenty of opportunities to get exercise, and we try to ensure that they do not get bored, but have plenty of enrichment and mental stimulation. We give them toys to play with. We make sure they have plenty of fun. We also respect the fact that they cannot be expected to play all the time, just to amuse us. We respect their right to rest when they want to – to have quiet times, and their own space. If we accept that our pets have these rights, it follows that we should accept that *all* animals have these rights.

  • Jayne Mansfield 13th Dec '16 - 8:55am

    I think that there have been many cases where those who show lack of empathy t animals have a history of cruel behaviour to animals, indeed it is a warning sign. These are of course extreme cases.

    I agree with you that for many of us, unnecessary suffering is caused by thoughtlessness. I was entranced by circus animals performing in circuses as a child, in adulthood, when I worked in forests and jungles where they roamed freely, I was quite ashamed of my previous thoughtlessness.

    My own adult position is nuanced, some would say, confused. I do not want animals to suffer unnecessarily. I am a vegetarian, married to a caveman and our children are a mixture. I have had numerous arguments over the years with vets, dentists etc., who argue that we as humans are omnivores, we have the teeth of omnivores.

    I suppose I like many I have quite mixed views, I am opposed to greyhound racing and fox hunting, but not pheasant shooting because the pheasants are shot then eaten.

    I do strongly believe that the way that animals are treated in life is of paramount importance, and that animals should be stunned before death, something that British Veterinary Society and the RSPCA do agree with. Nevertheless, I also believe that animal experimentation is sometimes and as the only resort, necessary for medical research.

    I have worked in areas where my colleagues have been Brahmins and we have been happy to eat only vegetables and pulses, but the , malnourished people we care for, have eaten any food available to them, and denying them access to forests where they can use their bows and arrows to kill for food , would be to deny them much needed nutrition. Also their homes and their lives are at risk from wild animals, so they don’t have what might be the romanticised view of animals that some of us might have.

    My own experiences mean that despite my opening paragraph, I do sometimes feel that on occasions, an overly benign attitude to animals fails to take into account existing human need.

  • Jayne Mansfield 13th Dec '16 - 8:58am

    My first paragraph should say a history of cruel behavior to to humans.

  • Jayne Mansfield 13th Dec '16 - 9:01am

    @ chris,
    I think there is a saying in Britain, ‘There is no such thing as a bad dog, just a bad owner’.

  • William Townsend 13th Dec '16 - 9:08am

    I am not a vegetarian and I am from a rural area. I eat Pheasant very occasionally and whilst people pay to shoot the birds they do as far as i am aware (correct me if i am wrong) end up on the table. I am against many forms of blood sports such as Fox Hunting, Badger Baiting etc where the only outcome is pure cruelty for the animal and blood lust for the hunter but unless you are advocating that we all become vegetarians you have to accept that animals including pheasants are reared and killed for the table. We should also remember that our ancestors in this country wiped out the main predators at the top of the food chain so there has to be some form of culling to keep some species at sustainable levels. The re introduction of the Wolf to yellow stone in the usa had a marked effect on re-balancing the natural order for example. I totally understand that for some people killing any animal for sport or food is repugnant but but i for one am not inclined to become a vegetarian.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 13th Dec '16 - 9:20am

    tonyhill, thank you for your comments – it is interesting to hear of your experience.
    Like you and Lorenzo, I am vegetarian. I only became a vegetarian four years ago – I wish I had done so much earlier. I think I always knew deep down that if you love animals, you should not eat them. But I kept putting it off, because I did like meat ! When I finally made the decision to give up meat, I found it easier than I expected, although I must admit there are times when I still miss it – especially when I see others eating it in restaurants etc.
    But unlike you I am not vegan. It was really only after I became vegetarian that I began to study the subject more, and realised that there are serious welfare issues with dairy and eggs as well as meat. There are very strong moral arguments for being vegan, but somehow I do not yet feel ready to take that step. I try to tell myself that it is alright so long as you use free range eggs and high welfare dairy. But of course it is not that simple – the egg industry involves the slaughter of the vast majority of male chicks, and the dairy industry involves the slaughter of most male calves. There are a few farms that practice “slaughter free dairy”, in which all the male calves are allowed to live, but these farms are small and do not really aim to make a profit. It would be much harder to use this method in large scale, commercial farming.
    I suppose everyone has to make their own personal choices about whether they are ready to go vegetarian or vegan. Some people feel they can best do their bit for animal welfare by continuing to eat meat, but only buying from farms that use the highest standards of animal welfare, and I respect this view too.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 13th Dec '16 - 9:41am

    Nick Cotter, Thank you for your comments. When your son has some spare time, I would be very interested to hear any comments he may have from his viewpoint as a trainee vet

  • If we accept that our pets have these rights, it follows that we should accept that *all* animals have these rights

    Sorry, I don’t understand this logic. Why does it follow? Pets and, for example, food-animals exist for different purposes, so I don’t see why they should necessarily be treated the same.

  • The re introduction of the Wolf to yellow stone in the usa had a marked effect on re-balancing the natural order for example

    Surely though that is the epitome of anti-animal-welfare — if it’s unacceptable to shoot an animal then it must be even more unacceptable to allow that animal to be torn apart by a wolf, which is surely an even more unpleasant death. Yes?

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 13th Dec '16 - 10:08am

    Jane Mansfield, following my reply to tonyhill above, I am interested to see that you, like Lorenzo, tonyhill, and me, are vegetarian. I would guess that there is a higher proprtion of vegetarians among Lib Dems than among the population in general. And of course Tim Farron is a vegetarian. So it is rather surprising that the party does not seem to have paid much attention in recent years to issues of animal welfare.
    I understand your view that, in parts of the world where people are short of food, it would not seem fair to deny them the right to hunt for food. But the evidence suggests that if most of the world’s population became vegetarian, it would benefit people as well as animals.
    The World Health Organisation and the UN have recommended that everyone should follow a mostly plant based diet, with meat, perhaps, as an occasional treat. They recommend it because it would be beneficial to human health, and help to conserve the earth’s resources. It has been estimated that about thirty percent of land worldwide is used to raise animals who are destined to be food, including land used to grow crops to feed animals who will themselves be food for humans. If everyone became vegetarian, this land could be used to grow plant based food for humans. Of course it would be vastly over simplistic to suggest that this would solve problems of world hunger – it would not. But it would be a step in the right direction.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 13th Dec '16 - 10:29am

    Dav, you say that because “pets and food animals exist for different purposes”, you don’t see why they should be treated the same. you seem to assume that animals exist only to be used by humans. This is the sort of attitude that I was trying to challenge in my article.
    Society would be outraged if puppies or kittens being raised to be pets, were being kept in the same conditions as young turkeys who are being raised for slaughter. It would be regarded as terrible cruelty, the RSPCA would become involved, and there would be prosecutions. But why should conditions that would be unacceptable for “pet” animals, be regarded as acceptable for “food” animals? “Food” animals have feelings, just as “pet” animals do.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 13th Dec '16 - 11:07am

    Edward, you raise some interesting philosophical questions. You say that you are dubious about the concept of animal rights, as you feel that rights are a part of human citizenship, and come with responsibilities.
    I would disagree that human rights are conditional on someone carrying out “responsibilities”. Surely we all agree that there are some “inalienable” human rights, that are not dependent on “responsibilities”. After all, a human baby or young child has human rights, just as much as an adult, even though they are too young to have responsibilities. Someone in a coma has human rights, even though they are not in a position to carry out responsibilities.
    So surely it follows that an animal can have rights, even though these will not be quite the same as human rights. Some human rights cannot quite apply to an animal. Unlike humans, animals cannot really have the right to make all decisions about their lives, even though we should, as far as possible, try to give animals the sort of life they would choose if they were able to express their wishes. Unlike humans, animals cannot really have an absolute right to family life – this would mean that we could never have our pets neutered, which would not be in their interests or that of the numerous offspring they would produce.
    But surely, just like humans, animals have the right to a happy and fulfilling life.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 13th Dec '16 - 11:34am

    Mark Wright, you speak of game birds as “wild or semi wild”, and imply that they have a good quality of life before being shot. Sadly, in most cases this is not true. You seem to be unaware that, these days, most game birds are raised by “factory farming” methods. Pheasants and red legged partridges begin life in cages. Because they are being raised primarily for “sport” rather than for food, they are not protected by the (admittedly minimal) welfare standards that protect farm animals. They are often raised in continental Europe, before enduring a long journey to the UK by lorry, packed into crates. On reaching the estates where shooting takes place, they are often kept initially in overcrowded sheds and pens, only being released a few weeks before they are shot.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 13th Dec '16 - 11:46am

    Mark Wright, following your suggestion that rights come with responsibility, and can be forfeit if you break the law, and your suggestion that animals therefore cannot have rights, please see my reply above to Edward, who made a similar suggestion.
    I will add that I do not quite see the relevance of your argument about rights being forfeit if one chooses to break the law. This argument could only apply to humans, as an animal cannot be expected to understand, or keep, the law – this does not mean that they cannot have rights. But I am also a bit worried about your argument from a *human* rights point of view. Surely liberals believe that prisoners do have rights, even if they may have to be deprived of the right to liberty.

  • Dav says, “Pets and, for example, food-animals exist for different purposes, so I don’t see why they should necessarily be treated the same.”

    This. There are some plants we cultivate to produce pretty flowers and others we cultivate to produce fat juicy fruit.

  • Peter Watson 13th Dec '16 - 12:27pm

    This is an excellent and thought-provoking article. I detest cruelty to animals and I agree entirely with the sentiments expressed (and Mark Wright is correct to point out that it is not as straightforward as we might like).

    In that context, my following points are in the spirit of playing Devil’s Advocate, with the hope that it will clarify my understanding of what Lib Dems are about.

    Recent threads have discussed the purpose and vision of the Lib Dems, and being the self-styled “party of freedom” was a hot topic. So why should animal welfare be a concern for a liberal “party of freedom”? Shouldn’t promoting the freedom of people to treat animals in whatever way they choose be the more appropriate approach?

    Also, as ever, there is a Brexit angle here. Does our membership of the EU strengthen or weaken our ability to reduce the deplorable cruel treatment of some animals (migrating song birds, bulls, donkeys, etc.) in other EU countries?

  • Excellent article..

    I have had first hand experience in my younger days of what goes on in slaughterhouses. I saw first hand that sheer terror in the pigs eyes as they were being loaded off the lorries and into holding pens, when they could hear what was going on in the sheds next door as pigs were being slaughtered and they knew what was coming for them. It was one of the most upsetting experiences I ever had in mt life.
    Ashamedly, I am still not a vegetarian. I truly wish I was.
    I wish I had the will power to give up meat.

    I was also astounded when I watched the recent Discovery channel documentary by Leonardo Dicaprio about climate change. I was gobsmacked about the carbon foot print just for Beef, which uses up 28 times more land to produce than pork or chicken, 11 times more water and results in five times more climate-warming emissions.
    According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) agriculture is responsible for 18% of the total release of greenhouse gases world-wide.
    A cow does on average release between 70 and 120 kg of Methane per year.
    World-wide, there are about 1.5 billion cows and bulls. All ruminants (animals which regurgitates food and re-chews it) on the world emit about two billion metric tons of CO2-equivalents per year. In addition, clearing of tropical forests and rain forests to get more grazing land and farm land is responsible for an extra 2.8 billion metric tons of CO2 emission per year!

    I would be quite happy for governments to ban meat, in the interests of the animals and in the interests of protecting our environment.

    As I write this, I feel more and more ashamed and useless, I have had the willpower to give up smoking, drugs and alcohol addictions in the past, so I should be able to do the same with meat, if I feel so strongly about it. It is just difficult in a society where ever where you look, shop, eat, meat products are advertised everywhere.

  • I’m vegetarian and detest blood sports. But is this an area where a majority ought to restrict by law the freedom of a minority who disagree? Or is it more appropriate to try and persuade those who indulge in blood sports they are wrong?

    The greatest reduction in animal suffering would come from improving the worst practices of the food industry. I think that’s the place to start, rather than banning people from doing something they choose to do, however incomprehensible their choice is to me.

  • Jayne Mansfield 13th Dec '16 - 3:32pm

    @ Catherine Jane Crosland,
    I have difficulty conflating animal welfare with human rights. There is, as Cllr Wright says, a great danger that one starts to anthropomorphise animals. Animals are not humans and their welfare depends upon that which humans afford them.

    As such there needs to be a general consensus arrived at on what is or is not acceptable treatment of animals and have laws and standards that are agreed. A law was passed banning fox hunting, ( there were reports of some foxes being reared for fox hunting, and they are stressed during hunting for sport and sport alone). so quite correctly in my view, but also according to polls the majority view.

    I think that those of us who would like the WHO or UN advice to become the norm, can be quite insensitive to the reasons some people in this country , as in others, cannot follow the advice.

    First, it requires an understanding of nutrition and food values that many do not possess.

    Second, there is also the problem of poverty. There is a growing problem of malnutrition even in this country. I can, if you wish, provide you with the figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. People with little money try to provide cheap meat protein, for the family, but it is cheap because of the farming methods used, methods that you and I would reject as cruel. They , understandably put their family’s immediate need for food before the concerns about animal welfare or global warming.

    If one wishes to understand the educational mountain that one has to climb when addressing the WHO and UN advice, only needs to watch Jamie Oliver’s attempts to improve the diet of some of the people of Rotherham.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 13th Dec '16 - 3:34pm

    Thanks to you , Catherine for your thoughtful and constructive policy suggestions and comments which have stimulated a very good and intelligent response.

    I am going to be provocative . My views on animals are the same as on abortion and violent crime. It is as with so much in Liberalism , for me , about humanity and flexibility. Get them both right and the operative word is balance . I favour the rights of all who do no harm . But if it is utilitarian to seek the greatest happiness of the greatest number , as Mill started as a Utilitarian , I continue as a , I continue as believer in Mill and his own philosophy as the basis of much of our Liberal policy.

    Therefore the practice and all that follows from it should be the reverse of Utilitarianism in emphasis , the same in outcome . The least harm for the least in number.

    I am thus staunch as a Liberal defender of the underdog not the top dog .

    I support a reduction in the number of weeks for abortion to 18 as a way of greater responsibility and preservation of life .I favour a ban on abortion based on gender or minor disibilities .

    On violent crime I favour stronger sentences for those who harm and hurt , and defend the victim first and always , particularly women and children as so much violent crime is by men.

    All this fits with my Liberal approach to animals .What we can do to help , we must .

    I think the balance is against the harm caused . We must end factory farming . We must encourage and subsidise free range and organic .

    Put the free into free range and make it part of our Liberalism !

  • Jayne Mansfield 13th Dec '16 - 5:27pm

    @ peter Watson,
    If I am reading your question correctly, the EU rules ( or red tape as some like to call it), certainly improves condition and protection for the transportation of animals across EU countries.

    My link won’t work but you could google:-

    European Commission Animals Main achievements

  • Richard Underhill 13th Dec '16 - 7:00pm

    William Townsend: I live in a small village in Kent. We do like to eat pheasants from small butchers or supermarkets but there is a risk to human health from shotgun pellets, which could be anywhere in the bird and are not removed by the retailer.
    Catherine Crosland: There is a division in the population between people who campaign passionately against the export of live farm animals, while others have not absorbed any information. For example did you notice the bright and ambitious businessmen and women on The Apprentice who claimed that their food was Vegan Free? (contained no vegans, hopefully true).

  • Lorenzo Cherin 13th Dec '16 - 10:46pm

    Very reasonable and welcome common ground .

    Actually , as someone who is not quite vegan , but in vegetarianism am very conscious to only eat free range eggs for ethical reasons , I do believe the policies we could adopt as Mark says , rather than be soppy or sentimental , though he put it more subtly , are and must be popular and practical .

    We can do it . The common sense is there . We need to put the consultation and sound debate into it .

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 14th Dec '16 - 6:40am

    Matt, thank you so much for your comments, and for sharing your personal experience. I just want to say that I certainly did not want to make anyone feel guilty or bad about themselves. Whether or not to become vegetarian or vegan is a very personal decision. Some people do feel strongly that they can do more for animal welfare by continuing to eat meat, but only buying from farms which have the highest standards of welfare.
    But if you do decide to become vegetarian, you will probably find, like me, that it is easier than you expect. It is true that society does make it hard to be vegetarian, but it is easier than it once was. Almost all restaurants and cafes now have vegetarian and vegan options. Most people these days respect the choices of friends and family who choose to be vegetarian, even if they would not make this choice themselves.
    I think the time will come when most people will be vegetarian, but it will take a while. I don’t think this is something governments can impose, but perhaps there could be policies which might encourage people to consider becoming vegetarian.
    Something that I would suggest is that perhaps all school lunches could be vegetarian. This would introduce children to vegetarian food early, and many might decide they prefer it. It would not be forcing vegetarianism on children – most would still be eating meat at home in the evening, and at weekends. And if some children and parents object to the thought of eating any meat-free meals at all, they should be allowed to bring a packed lunch which includes meat.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 14th Dec '16 - 7:08am

    Lorenzo, thank you so much for your supportive comments. You are right in saying we must be practical rather than “soppy or sentimental”, but I don’t think there is anything soppy or sentimental in saying that animals have rights.
    Anyone who has ever owned a pet will know that animals do have feelings and emotions. Indeed, animals are often more nervous and easily stressed than humans. This applies to farm animals just as much as the animals who are usually kept as pets. I don’t think it is “soppy or sentimental” to say this.
    Many people are probably unaware of just how poor welfare standard in “factory farming” actually are, and would be horrified if they knew. Although most people would not, at the moment, want to be vegetarian, I think most people would be very much in favour of all farm animals being free range.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 14th Dec '16 - 9:42am

    Peter Watson, you raise an interesting issue. Some liberals do believe, as you suggest, that the liberal belief in the freedom of the individual means that individuals should be free to choose for themselves whether or not to take part in blood sports. This is probably the reason why some Lib Dem MPs voted against the hunting ban, including Tim Farron (although I believe he has said since that he has now changed his mind on the issue).
    But the liberal belief in the freedom of the individual always has an important condition. Every individual has the absolute right to make whatever choices they wish about the way they live their life, *so long as these choices do not harm others*. If we accept that animals have rights, then we will accept that “others” includes animals.
    The party of freedom must support freedom for animals, too.

  • Peter Watson 14th Dec '16 - 1:28pm

    @Jayne Mansfield “If I am reading your question correctly, the EU rules ( or red tape as some like to call it), certainly improves condition and protection for the transportation of animals across EU countries.”
    Essentially, I was speculating whether or not EU membership has helped prevent a range of wilfully cruel traditions in parts of the EU (often, but not exclusively, in Spain), and whether a liberal “party of freedom” approach should even attempt to. I started googling specific examples but found it quite distressing so will not post any links here. Broadly speaking, I was thinking about the killing of millions of migrating songbirds, bull fighting, blood fiestas, throwing live animals from towers, etc.

  • This does read like an argument intended to result in eventual compulsory vegetarianism.

    As Mark Wright pointed out above. If there were appropriate rules in place birds being kept for shooting could have a very good quality of life (though that may not be the case now). We should surely want to provide animals with the maximum amount of freedom while they are alive before being killed.

  • Peter Watson 14th Dec '16 - 1:47pm

    @Catherine Jane Crosland “The party of freedom must support freedom for animals, too.”
    I appreciate the sentiment, but we accept the eating of animals but not people, we incarcerate ‘innocent’ animals (whether for food production or as pets), we encourage scientists to carry out the sort of research on animals that we would not allow for humans, etc.
    Animals and humans are very different (though often very similar!), and it is difficult to make a compelling case against animal cruelty on the basis of “freedom”. This is one of the reasons I think that the “party of freedom” sobriquet is a meaningless platitude and I would hope that it is not adopted. In the case of animal cruelty, I simply believe that the freedom of people to behave as they might wish should be restricted and I would hate the idea of a Lib Dem party that took the opposite stance.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 14th Dec '16 - 2:10pm


    I did not in any way want to imply you are in any way being soppy or sentimental, far from it ! Your reasoning here is very sensible . I am more concerned with the practicality of both doing things and promoting them . It is a bit like on Brexit . There is that we can do , that we might , and that we cannot !

    I do believe you have explained on babies , and I , on abortion and criminality , why rights are indeed at the centre of our concern for the vulnerable . We are the ones who have the responsibility , to act responsibly !

    A Liberal not primarily concerned every day , with the weak and innocent of any wrongdoing of harm , rather than the strong and guilty of wrongdoing of harm , is a libertarian right winger !

    Some mistake me for an economic centre right liberal under the mistaken impression that because I favour plurality and choice , and do not like monopoly and statism , until they discover that on inumerable issues I am both social Liberal and quite a left wing one on some rare occasions !

  • I cannot accept that animals can have rights, in any commenserate way to what I beleve most people mean when they talk of human rights.
    As a non vegatarian I enjoy eating meat, and to be honest, consume far too much, though I am on a mission to reducing the amount and increase the quality in my diet. I have always believed that if one is to eat meat / fish, one should be prepared to kill the animal / fish or at the very least have a good understanding of the means by which they are reared and slaughtered. I enjoy game and take part in shooting, falconry and also fishing, always for food, never for the wanton thrill of indiscriminate killing.
    Granted, even if people were willing to do so, we can’t all go into the moors and woods to take a few pheasant, grouse etc. so the next best thing is to be aware of how the meat or fish is raised or caught. I do believe that good animal husbandary and sustainable fishing is something that is not given sufficient thought when purchasing the weekly shop, similarly very few people give sufficient thought to the means of slaughter. In this country there are generally three types of slaughter, the non- religious elictrical stunning followed by bleeding of large animals. Islam uses the religious zabiha method of slaughter which involves cutting coritid artery, jugular vein, and wind pipe within a single swipe of a very large and very sharp blade, some Islamic arbitoirs also allow the animal to be stunned prior to the slitting of the throat. The Jewish method of slaughter is known as shechita and as far as I understand, pre stunning is prohibited in this type of slaughter.
    The debate as to which method causes the least distress to the animal continues with many animal rights groups campaigning against religious slaughter, and religious groups arguing that their respective methods are as least as efficient in ensuring minimum distress is caused to the animal.
    I think the least that a meat eater should do is be aware of how the animal was raised and slaughtered, in this way, hopefully there will be a continued pressure on producers to use the best animal husbandary processes, and consumers hopefully will continue to move towards eating less but better quality meat, from animals raised and slaughtered using the best possible methods.
    On those non- meat days, at this time of year I can personally reccommend a good vegetable cassarole ( European variations are available… and very good they are too).

  • Jayne Mansfield 14th Dec '16 - 4:12pm

    @ Peter Watson,
    Thanks for the sensitivity on not posting links, but I found the information myself. Truly shocking barbarism towards animals.

  • A Social Liberal 14th Dec '16 - 10:21pm

    I grew up on a country estate owned by one of the aristocracy. I hung around shooting parties before they set off up onto the moor and when they came back. I helped my Dad and the estate foreman hang birds in the larder and after helped pack them into crates ready for delivery to cities all over the UK.

    I cannot comment on shooting estates other than the one I had personal experience of, but every bird short of those given every year to estate staff was sold, whether the bag was large or small.

    As for game being raised in factory conditions before they are shot – this just isn’t true. You might have mistaken the ‘factory’ for the raising pens chicks are kept in for reasons of safety but once the birds become juvenile they are released in order for them to disperse and build up their bodies. If they were not fully fit by the time of seasons start then the guns would not pay the exorbitant shooting fees, they expect that the birds are as difficult to shoot as possible.

    There may be game factories – but those factories are not there to raise targets for guns but for quail eggs and table birds.

  • I’m ambivalent about the shooting of pheasants, but more concerned about the desperately unsustainable way that the industry operates.

    It seems likely that Pheasant releases are now in excess of 40 million birds a year. That’s a lot of biomass. When you take into account the infrastructure and feeding required to maintain these non-native semi-tame birds until the shooting season it’s impossible to deny that it is having an ecological effect. It’s quite possible this is manifested in higher populations of predators and scavengers, which then themselves pass on an effect to populations of other species lower down the foodchain.

    Despite this, little is known about these ecological impacts. And Given the vested interests involved, the Government is ostrich like on the issue.

    Again, I have no problem with shooting, but it’s currently unregulated and out of control.

  • A Social Liberal 15th Dec '16 - 10:25pm

    John Stone

    You are wrong on several of the assertions you made.

    First, on pheasants. Yes, you are correct that pheasants are not native – but they have been around since Roman times and so can be almost counted as such. Next, the feeding. Pheasants are fed as chicks and for a short time after their release, but in order to encourage their dispertion from the spring until the start of the season in October they have to forage. They then mix with the wild population and essentially become wild in their turn.

    On partridge, of which there are two breeds. Grey partridge are indiginous and are shot from wild stock. Red legged partridge were introduced to England in the 1700s and so are as native as dammit. The feeding of reared partridge follows roughly the pattern of pheasants in that they are placed in pens at eight weeks and then kept for two to four weeks until they become juveniles. Unlike pheasants, partridge are communal, a covey (flock) moving from one area to another and so, except for a short time after release, are not fed.

    Red grouse are native to the UK. As they eat heather tips and moorland berries the population is as far as I know entirely wild. Indeed, the only management is the burning of heather to allow new shoots to quickly grow and the laying down of medicated grit to rid birds of parasites.

    Now on to predators. The areas round the pens are predator free, as anyone who has seen gibbets in these areas could attest. Further out the predators are more lightly controlled and once dispersed the birds are on their own. There is a problem here – some gamekeepers destroy rare birds of prey. There has been no increase in predator populations to my knowledge since the rearing of gamebirds became the norm.

    Oh, and the shooting industry is heavily regulated, is by no means out of control and personally I defend the shooting of game without having ever participated and so have no vested interest

  • Jayne Mansfield 16th Dec '16 - 6:56am

    @ Catherine Jane Crosland,
    After a discussion focussed on animal cruelty, I hope that you can access a video that was sent to me on facebook this morning.

    It is of a carol service held by the charity for re-homed greyhounds and lurchers, Forever Hounds. BBC Points West Video.

    I hope that you are able to access it, it is a heartwarming end to this thread.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 16th Dec '16 - 8:24am

    Jayne Mansfield, thank you so much for mentioning the Forever Hounds Trust’s Christmas concert for dogs. I found the video on the Forever Hounds Trust’s facebook. It is so lovely 🙂

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 18th Dec '16 - 9:50am

    Thank you to everyone who has commented on this article.
    My main aim was to open a debate on a subject that the party has paid insufficient attention to in recent years. It was wonderful to see such a positive response.
    Not everyone agreed with my suggestion that we should speak in terms of “rights” and “freedoms” for animals. Some felt it would be better just to speak of improving animal welfare. But this was mainly a disagreement about words. Virtually everyone who commented, was in agreement that standards of animal welfare need to be improved.
    Even those who were opposed to a ban on shooting pheasants and partridges, nevertheless believed that it was important to ensure that the birds have a good quality of life before being shot.
    It was especially encouraging that no-one at all made any attempt to defend “factory farming”. There seemed to be agreement that the ideal would be for all farm animals to be free range.
    While I believe that there should be a ban on shooting for sport, it is also true that “factory farming” causes suffering on a far greater scale.
    Could I suggest that the party should set up a policy working group on animal welfare, so that we can have some clear and developed policies on this important issue in place well before the 2020 election?

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