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Kedgeley Speech on Animal Welfare

Sue Kedgley's speech to the Australia and New Zealand Council for the Care
of Animals in Research and Teaching, Wellington, 18 November, 1999.


There is a view of the world - and it's been a fairly mainstream view for
some time - that the earth is a pool of resources that exists solely in
order to be exploited by human beings; it is, essentially, a giant factory
producing things for human consumption.

In this view of the world, other species such as animals have no intrinsic
value. They are basically biological machines that can be manipulated in
various ways to become ever more efficient producers of meat for humans.
According to this view, humans have a God-given right to use animals,
manipulate them or destroy them as they please to satisfy their wants and
needs, so long as it increases efficiencies and therefore profitability.

If animals and other life forms are not sufficiently productive to meet
human needs, the solution is not to moderate human wants; it is to develop
new technologies such as genetic engineering which can redesign animals or
create entire new species of animals, which can be owned by companies and
used as robot like machines to produce whatever products we want.
Inevitably, genetic engineering will escalate the exploitation and
mechanisation of animals by humans.

This view of the world has been the driving force, and indeed the
justification for, the industrialisation of agriculture which has taken
place over the past 50 odd years.

Ever since the 1950s when scientists discovered that pesticides could kill
insects and eliminate the need for labour intensive weeding, there has been
an underlying assumption that any and every invention, any and every new
agricultural technology is justified, provided that it helps make food grow
more quickly and produces higher yields.

As a raft of new technologies, new inventions, new chemicals changed the
face of modern agriculture, almost no thought was given to animals, or how
they might suffer from these various new technologies. No thought was given
either, to the consumer, or how the consumer might feel about some of the
practices that were being introduced.

When the discovery of vitamins and d made it possible to raise animals
indoors without sunlight or exercise, poultry and pig farmers switched to
indoor farming, and invested heavily in capital equipment etc, without
apparently giving any thought to how the consumer might feel about some of
the techniques they were using such as sow crates and cages. I suspect their
main thought was how long they could keep these practices hidden from the
consumer.

Once it was accidentally discovered that chickens grew faster if they were
fed antibiotics in their feed, poultry farmers embraced this practice to
save on poultry feed, with no apparent thought about the long term health
effects of feeding millions of tons of antibiotics to perfectly healthy
animals, and no thought either about what consumers might think about the
practice or whether they even had a right to know about this widespread
practice.

Like to quote from Lyman, mad cowboy
He personifies the underlying attitude of the industrial farmer.

This then was the basis of intensive industrial agriculture; it was producer
led, based on maximising efficiencies for the producer, rather than consumer
led, based on making product that consumers wanted to buy. It is based on
the idea that animals are biological machines or economic units, not fellow
creatures that we should respect.

For many years this sort of intensive factory farming thrived, but only
because it was hidden away from the public, and most consumers had no idea,
when they bought their nice pieces of diced chicken in the supermarket, of
the conditions it had been reared on.

But in the last decade, all this has changed, as consumers have gained
access to more and more information in the information age, and become more
interested in food and how it has been produced.

And as animal welfare consciousness has grown, as animal welfare groups have
exposed factory farming to the glare of publicity.

New Zealand consumers only really became aware of the fact that large
numbers of animals are grown in factories 6 years ago, with the referendum
on phasing out battery hens. Although the referendum didn't succeed it was a
watershed because it lifted the veil of secrecy that had previously
surrounded factory farming in New Zealand, and made consumers aware of the
cruel truth of factory farming --- that unlike animals on conventional farms
who have fresh air, exercise, rest, natural feed, the ability to range
around in paddocks -some degree of what humans call freedom -

The environment of animals in factory farms consists of cages, steel bars,
dusty air and fluorescent lights. Consumers became aware for the first time
that animals on factory farms are treated like machines, kept in cages, sow
stalls where all their natural instincts are suppressed, have their beaks
and tails cut off, and live on a diet that is almost totally foreign to any
food animals have ever found in nature -instead of foraging around for it
themselves, their feed is concocted in laboratories and factories, and
arrives on an automated conveyor belt.

More recently the anti sow stall campaign has been very successful in
educating New Zealanders about how pigs are reared. 75,000 New Zealanders
have signed a petition calling for the phasing out of sow stalls..

Videos about have been showing in 16 Body Shops around the country.

For producers, the protests of the animal welfare activists must be like one
of those annoying car alarms that just wont shut off.

Even more annoying, no doubt, are the questions they ask -questions that the
industrial agriculture does not want to address: questions that are almost
taboo. Is it ethical to treat animals in ways that would be considered
torture if done to humans or even pet dogs and cats.

How do animals feel in their confinement. Do animals, like other living
creatures, feel pain and suffer from boredom and frustration on factory
farms. And the answer, obviously is, yes, as can be seen from a short video
i will show at the end of my speech. Pigs for example are intelligent,
curious, highly social animals who have a heightened capacity for suffering,
and literally go mad with boredom and despair when locked in their sow
crates.

While some hope that the protests of animal welfare activists will subside,
this is a vain hope. The protests outside this conference are but a hint of
things to come, as interest in animal welfare grows. Animal welfare, like
genetic engineering, is one of those underlying issues that people feel very
passionately about. Although N Z is way behind Europe on this issue, its
almost inevitable i suggest that new Zealand will follow the lead of England
and Europe where animal welfare is no longer a fringe issue but a serious
political and consumer concern.

England banned the dry sow and tether system earlier this year, and all of
Europe committed itself a few months ago to prohibit the use of conventional
battery cages by 2012, and to make it illegal to install any new ones after
2003.

It's only a matter of time before the same thing happens here. Animal
welfare bill is a step in the right direction, with its stipulation that
animals should be able to express normal patterns of behavior -
nevertheless, the animal welfare act is seriously flawed, it has legalised
many forms of animal abuse, it has failed to address many of New Zealand's
animal welfare problems, including factory farming which is the greatest
contributor of animal abuse in New Zealand, causing millions of animals to
suffer extreme cruelty.

On the positive side, if this provision was strictly enforced many of the
practices used on factory farms today would be illegal.

In the next three years as the different codes of practice, which have been
given the force of law, come up for review, there will be intense pressure
to make sow stalls and battery hen farming and other practices which flout
the spirit of the act -that animals should be able express normal patterns
of behavior -illegal. The green party certainly intends to take a lead in
the next parliament in making sow stalls, battery farming and other cruel
farming practices which prevent animals from expressing normal patterns of
behavior illegal under the act. Phased out

But perhaps even more significant, from producers point of view, is the way
consumers are voting with their wallets and making food purchases in the
supermarkets based on animal welfare, as well as health and safety concerns.

In the future, all the trends indicate, consumers will want to know how
animals have been treated, and what conditions they were reared in. Farmers
who treat their animals cruelly will face consumer boycotts and a growing
consumer backlash against their products. Already we see this happening in
England where most major supermarkets no longer stock hens that have been
grown in cages and freedom foods, from animals that live in freedom, are
being promoted.

In New Zealand, boycotts against pork and the recent announcement of the
RNZSPCA 's endorsement of barn eggs are a sign of things to come as
consumers begin to exert their power, and use their knowledge to influence
the market.

It is not only animal welfare activists who don't want meat from factory
farms. Consumers generally want safe, wholesome, unadulterated foods, and
many are shocked when they discover that the meat they buy comes from
animals that have been fed antibiotics, the ground up remains of other
animals, or genetically engineered feed.

Consumers don't want to eat meat from animals that have been fed antibiotic
growth promotants every day of their short and miserable lives, or the
ground up remains of other animals, or genetically engineered soy meal. We
want safe, wholesome, natural food, and will use their purchasing power to
buy it and to avoid meat from factory farms.

As we move ever further into the information age, experts are warning that
producers, whether they like it or not, will have to be consumer, rather
than producer, driven, as they have been in the past. However galling they
may find consumer concerns, they will have to listen to them, for the
consumer as ray winger says in his paper, is the determinant of the food we
produce-as even a giant multinational corporation like Monsanto has recently
found to its cost.

Finally, of course, factory farming is not only the greatest contributor by
far of animal abuse, causing millions of animals to suffer, it is simply not
sustainable. It is not sustainable to continue feeding animals antibiotics
every day of their lives, when officials have confirmed that this practice
is contributing to the upsurge in superbugs in hospitals, and when health
officials warn that antibiotic resistance is going to be one of the most
serious problems confronting consumers in the next century.

Nor is it sustainable to continue feeding animals the ground up remains of
other animals, as the bse crisis demonstrated. Which is why the practice is
illegal in Europe.

The genetic engineers think they can create new super pigs and super sheep
and super salmon which will solve some of these problems, but aside from the
ethics of what they are doing to animals, it is doubtful that these
laboratory created animals will be healthy or sustainable. Already reports
coming in from Ruakura suggest that clones of dolly, the sheep, are
abnormal, 8 times more likely to die prematurely, may not be able to graze
in the paddock, and has serious health and other problems which raise
questions about whether these animals lives should be sustained.

Like the factory farmers of yesteryear the genetic engineers are doing their
experiments in secret, obsessed with the idea that anything that makes
animals more productive and therefore more profitable, is acceptable, with
no apparent concern, apparently, for how the animals, or consumer will feel
about the new life forms they create.

I am particularly disturbed by the trend of the crown research institute
Agresearch into genetic engineering and cloning of cows and sheep, producing
unnatural animals which are treated like machines, some of this research is
classed officially as laboratory work which needs no public input before
behind the scenes official approval, and it is continuing without public
scrutiny and debate.

Examples include work at Ruakura near Hamilton to add human and other genes
to dairy cows. According to written details of the research, scientists work
on young calves aged six to nine months to induce lactation well before the
calves are naturally ready for this. The government scientists also take out
and insert various embryos and fetuses, including in very young animals.
Scientists continually operate to obtain skin and other body samples.

Scientists in recent years created deformed mice by taking out whole gene
sequences. Some of these mice are barely alive, with loss of liver
functions, walking difficulties, no hair, failed immune systems, and failed
pregnancies. The scientists have been talking about similar knock out gene
sequences in sheep and cattle and are likely to have produced these animals
already in secret.

An Agresearch report in 1997 about a particular 'knocked out' gene sequence
regulating muscle growth said this New Zealand discovery had opened the
flood gates for work on sheep to greatly boost the amount of muscle. The
green party has had an anonymous message from Ruakura staff saying staff
have been sworn to secrecy about GE sheep which have ongoing problems
retaining bodily fluids and which the messenger says should not be kept
alive.


ends

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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