In an unusual media stunt, the Auckland SPCA is training three shelter dogs to drive.
SPCA Auckland CEO, Christine Kalin, sums up the rationale as follows:
“I think sometimes people think because they’re getting an animal that’s been abandoned that somehow it’s a second-class animal … Driving a car actively demonstrates to potential rescue dog adopters that you can teach an old dog new tricks. The dogs have achieved amazing things in eight short weeks of training, which really shows with the right environment just how much potential all dogs from the SPCA have as family pets.”
So long as they’re not pit bulls, I imagine.
This is, of course, an awareness-raising stunt rather than a viable long-term programme but it raises another issue that is worth reflecting on: a common tendency to advocate for animals on the basis of intelligence – as demonstrated by their ability to perform human tasks – as the grounds for moral consideration which oblige us to treat non-human animals far better than we generally do.
But there are reasons to be wary of the focus on intelligence as a criterion for moral consideration and the double-standards applied between domestic and farmed animals are especially apparent here. Cows are at least as intelligent as dogs and pigs have performed much better in tests of intelligence than either. And yet, it is abhorrent to eat dog but not pig or cow flesh. The intelligence standard as a benchmark for moral consideration becomes disturbing when we realise that in application it would mean we may justify lesser concern for infants, or the severely mentally disabled. In Peter Singer’s famous limit example of the anencephalic (i.e. without a complete brain, only the brain stem controlling basic survival functions) child, the human would have less of a right to life than any fully functional animal. According to Singer, the only thing that prevents us from eating the child is ‘speciesism‘.
Just a quick note on the Animal Justice Fund, administered by SAFE, funded from Jan Cameron’s (founder of the hugely-successful outdoor equipment company, Kathmandu) fortune which allocates $2 million for whistleblowers. Between $5 000 and $30 000 can be awarded in each instance that leads to a successful prosecution or ‘significant animal welfare outcome.’
To date, at least six workers have ‘dobbed in’ bosses for animal cruelty. But none want to accept the reward.
All were for dairy farms and piggeries. None of the workers were still employed by the farms they were laying complaints against, so the cases and information are considered ‘historical’ and hence a low priority for investigation. Four of these cases were referred to MAF. According to SAFE’s Hans Kriek:
Paddocks were in bad shape, there were stones and lame cows. There were high mortality rates amongst calves. Dying animals were being left to rot in paddocks. With the pig farms we had the usual complaints … that the conditions were terrible and enclosures weren’t cleaned out and the animals were standing a foot deep in their own muck.
Yet, no breaches of the relevant welfare codes were found in any case. Continue reading
As of 1 July 2010, the use of any animal in a circus has been banned in Bolivia. A handful of other countries have banned the use of wild animals in circuses but only Bolivia has banned exploitation of domestic animals in circuses as well.
The Bolivian law, which states that the use of all animals in circuses ‘constitutes an act of cruelty’ was enacted on 1 July 2009, with operators given a year to comply.
The bill took two years to pass through both chambers of the Plurinational Assembly, meeting stiff opposition from the eastern states of Bolivia where there was concern that the law would be expanded to include bullfighting, which is popular in rural villages. Bullfighting remains legal in Bolivia.
The legislature were eventually won over by a screening of videos shot by undercover circus infiltrators in Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia co-ordinated and funded by Animal Defence International (ADI), a London-based NGO which found that ill-treatment and violence against animals in circuses is commonplace.
Bullfighting was banned in the autonomous Spanish region of Catalonia on 28 July this year, with the ban coming into full effect in 2012.
Now, three months to the day later, the Spanish Constitutional Court (housed in a rather Beehive-esque building) has accepted an appeal lodged by the Partido Popular (People’s Party, PP) challenging Catalonia’s ban on cultural, economic and administrative grounds. The PP is a conservative, nationalist party known for such other legislative projects as restricting immigration to Catalonia and deporting immigrants who have not learnt the Catalan language to proposed minimum standards.
It is the second Spanish region after the Canary Islands (which banned bullfighting in 1991) to outlaw the practice and the first on the mainland.
Bullfighting is a brutal spectacle in which the torture and death of the bull is the end of a life-long process of abuse and mistreatment (I’ve written on this in more detail here) and this is a significant victory for a coalition of Catalonian animal rights groups called “Prou!” meaning “Enough!” They initated the vote by submitting a 180 000-signature petition to the parliament, calling for a ban.
The vote was not a cut-and-dry animal welfare issue as the rejection of this emblematically Spanish tradition is also widely interpreted as animated by separatist sentiment. Of Spain’s semi-autonomous regions, Catalunya has the greatest degree of autonomy along with the Basque region. It has even been suggested that the vote was calculated in last-minute lobbying as retaliation for a recent decision from Spain’s Constitutional court which has curtailed some of the proudly-independent region’s autonomy in law-making.
This is an exciting advance made against one of the most tradition-bound forms of animal suffering. The commercial significance of the ‘sport’ falls far short of that in the Spanish capital of Madrid and Andalucia to the South, when the law comes into effect in 2012 it will close Barcelona’s last remaining bullring, La Monumental. This may limit the spread of the ban to the other regions.
But there is still work to do. Activists have now set their sights on a ban on the Correbous, an annual festival in the region in which flaming torches and even fireworks are fastened to the bulls’ horns and they are set loose, frightened, disoriented and often suffering burns, to run around an enclosure for the amusement of onlookers.
I’m fed up. I’m normally very positive when it comes to food, and coffee. My diet is the (vegan) opposite of James’ porridge-and-apricots hike: Varied, spicy, and (too often) pricey fare. On the weekend, I often relax by visiting a cafe with a friend or a novel. When I need to plan my time in a busy patch, an espresso and my diary is the go.
And I think that it is easy to make, and to buy, varied and enjoyable vegan food in Auckland (and in Hamilton, Wellington, and Christchurch, if not elsewhere in New Zealand). There are a lot of vegan options in cafes and restaurants. Sure, it’s not New York and it’s not Melbourne (If anyone reading this wants to open a Lord of the Fries franchise in Auckland: I and my friends will keep you in business. Not joking.), but it’s not bad.
Cafes, however? I’m going to be honest. Most of the time, they don’t capitalise on the vegan market well enough. That’s not good for veganism, not good for vegans, and not good for cafe owners. Continue reading
Last week, Crafar Farms skulked back into the news. And so did cattle rustling, a phenomenon most of us last encountered in a Spaghetti Western. However, Sunday last week, the Herald reported the theft of 1,000 to 2,000 cows. To quote:
Michael Stiassny is missing a few cows – more than 1000. Stiassny was appointed receiver of the Crafarms group in October after the family-owned company collapsed under heavy debts and multiple prosecutions for effluent discharge.
The stolen cows have a commercial value in excess of one million dollars. So what is Crafar’s receiver to do? Call the police, of course:
Stiassny … said he would be approaching police.
This is probably no surprise. After all, cattle are property. Stealing cattle is theft. Theft is a crime. When a crime is committed, you call the police. Simple. But a different logic applied in September, when Crafar was outed for gross violations of the most basic welfare standards. Breaches of the Animal Welfare Act 1999 (the Act) are crimes, but no one called the police on Crafar. Why not?