I’m pleased to have just signed the candidate pledge for Vote Cruelty Free backing their election manifesto (PDF), which covers farm animal welfare, animal experimentation, hunting, fur, whaling, and other issues.
Farm welfare is an issue that I’m particularly concerned about. In my youth I spent quite a bit of time on farms in Australia, and I saw sows held in hideous farrowing crates, in which they were locked for many weeks, unable to turn around, to do much more than shake their head and lie down. At the time I was told that this was “necessary” to ensure they didn’t harm their piglets, yet now I know that any threat they presented to their young was a result of the stressful, inadequate conditions in which they were held, and that living in open field conditions, with appropriate space etc, there’s no need for concern.
I also saw mulesing – the removal from the rear of sheep whole patches of skin. This is justified on the basis of the need to prevent flystrike – which in the extensive, low-labour grazing conditions of Australia is pretty well impossible to stop any other way. Yet, it is clear that this is just one more sign that many aspects of current Australian agriculture are unsuited to the environment in which it tries to operate. (Hard-hoofed animals such as sheep and cattle are also extremely harmful to fragile Australia soils, their tracks making a significant contribution to erosion.)
(Natalie Bennett is the Green Party candidate for Holborn and St Pancras parliamentary constituency.)