26 April 1996

Animal rights move

CLAIMS by some animal welfare campaigners that all sentient animals have rights that should not be infringed have been dismissed by Farm Animal Welfare Council chairman, Sir Colin Spedding.

"I can understand this view but I do not find it at all helpful because I cannot understand how you look after the rights of a tiger at the same time as a gazelle. Or owls and mice – you get nowhere if you are trying to look after the interests of both," he said.

A more constructive approach was to say that anyone who kept animals thereby acquired the responsibility for their welfare. "And that does not only apply to farm animals but also to pets."

Animal welfare mattered both morally and economically. "We have to improve animal welfare because consumers demand it. They have become increasingly aware of how their food is produced. It is vital that the farming industry listens to public criticism even if it is based on ignorance or poorly articulated."

NFU leader, Sir David Naish, told the conference that his union listened to the more reasonable animal welfare groups but refused to deal with extremists because "they are dangerous and often condemn tried and tested methods without offering solutions".

But Sir Colin insisted it was not up to the public to find solutions. That had to be the responsibility of experts like FAWC. Consumers needed to trust those making decisions and that could be best achieved by the major retailers ensuring they sourced products only from welfare-friendly production systems. &#42