We know that most people reading this are sympathetic to the lives and well-being of other animals; and the majority of the UK population will channel that sympathy into demands for higher welfare standards.
But can we respect other animals while treating them as commodities? The ‘right’ to take any animal’s life in UK law is not based on scientific or ethical reasoning, as UK animal welfare law is supposed to be based, but instead is appeals to a consensus within the population, as outlined in the Farmed Animal Welfare (FAW) Council 2009 report. With the increase in veganism, plant-based diets and awareness of animal sentience, is it time to question whether such a ‘consensus’ still exists?
As intensive industrial units become more common, in which the vast majority of pigs, chickens and other poultry birds are kept for their entire lives – mostly for a mere fraction of their natural lifespans – have even the minimum conditions “of a life worth living”, as outlined in the FAW Council report, been met? Our legislation urgently needs to catch up with our national attitudes towards our fellow animals.
Regardless of whether or not you argue for animal welfare, or for a birthright for animals that consists of freedom and release from systemic oppression, it’s clear the direction of travel must be towards a plant-based food system, and this transition has already begun: