19 March 2000
THE DAYS are growing longer, but while many reptiles and amphibians in the UK and Europe are awaking from hibernation, things are looking grim for many domestic farm animals here in Britain, traditionally the time of the lambing season. This brings me appropriately to the theme of this month's somewhat belated editorial.
In recent weeks we have become aware of the malign influence of animal rights groups. I won't name names here, but there seems to be a creeping paralysis in the face of the more outrageous demands of some of them. Their ultimate aim is the ending of "exploitation" of animals by the human race, a goal that can be traced back in some ways to Peter Singer's book Animal Liberation in which he called for an end to "speciesism" (although to be fair groups such as the Captive Animals Protection Society had been set up some years before that). The animal rights movement is a mixed bunch ranging from moderate but concerned people who wish to see an end to some abuses, to those who wish to end all animal captivity, whether in zoos or in domestic homes. Some of these groups run slick advertising campaigns and manage to promote themselves by having one or two media stars on board: others bombard local councils with disinformation and carefully selected data (filtering out any which doesn't fit their aims) and pressurise democratically-elected bodies into refusing legitimate and legal groups the right to hold shows, exhibitions or "fayres" in council venues.
The reason I tie this in with the plight of the farmers is that I feel for a long time those who have a stake in the captivity of some animals, whether as agricultural breeders, pet keepers or zoo keepers, have been on the defensive for too long. This has been partly because we have been slow to wake up to the challenge presented by these groups, and also because some of them have one single agenda which they pursue relentlessly, whereas the rest of us are too busy getting on with our lives. The danger is that one day we may wake up to find our precious right to keep animals seriously eroded or even lost through the vocal actions of what is really a minority.
This is not to defend the status quo. Abuses there are, whether in the wildlife trade, the transportation of animals or other areas, and they should be dealt with. But too often the animal rights movement simply uses these as a "hook" to achieve a greater objective. Some of them gave the game away when the Commons passed the ban on fox hunting, crowing that this was only the beginning. Reptile keepers, aquarists, bird- and small mammal fanciers.... any of us could be the target next.
Therefore the next few weeks should see some articles dealing with the debate on animal rights, animal welfare and how to defend the rights of those who love animals but see nothing wrong with keeping some or eating meat. I make no bones about the fact that I am philosophically not on the side of the AR groups, although I have some sympathy with their more limited aims. If you disagree with me, again, I accept that and if you want to open a dialogue, that's even better. Abuse and "flamers" will not be tolerated, however, and anyone pursuing such will be (a) ignored on this site and (b) have their ISP traced and notified for improper usage.
Lest this sound like the beginnings of a "holy war", however, please be assured that it is not. The last thing we want to do is to make opponents into enemies, and in a democracy one should be free to disagree. And there is still a lighter side to this site: look for additions to the music pages over the next month or so.
Thanks again to everyone who has sent us E-mails recently. If for any reason I haven't replied to you, please let us know and I will try to do so again.
May 2000 (II)
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