A Short Note on Animal Welfare in British Politics

It is easy to be swayed by populist propaganda, especially if it comes from a) political parties and b) the press. Both parts are equally guilty of misinformation through ”political information”, although one might argue this is not their responsibility as a public education system exists which is meant to teach citizens information literacy and critical thinking.

An interview with Morrissey was recently posted on Morrissey’s (?) new (?) web page. While many of the points have been a topic of discussion (and loathing and gloating &c) one case is certainly the mention of the right-wing party For Britain. This is the quote:

JOHN: You say you have never known a British political party that represents your views.

MORRISSEY: There is a new party called For Britain. They have the best approach to animal welfare, whereas no other party even bothers to mention animal welfare. The EU will not protect animals from halal or kosher practice. For Britain seem to say what many British people are currently thinking, which is why the BBC or Channel 4 News will not acknowledge them, because, well, For Britain would change British politics forever … and we can’t have that! If you love animals, you really cannot vote Labour or Conservative. Give animals a break. They’ve done enough for you. Let them live.
(source)

Because people generally make sloppy analyses of Morrissey’s political statements, and because people are generally bad at fact checking, I decided to do some for myself.

This is what For Britain’s manifesto says on animal welfare:

12.Agriculture & Fisheries
• Reintroduction of 200 mile limit under UNCLOS 1977;
• Rebuild UK fishing fleet with UK boats, gear & crew;
• Farming: Support transition from CAP with an end goal of self-sufficiency;
• Farming & Fisheries are strategic and must be assisted to regrow – abuse by major buyers must be tackled;
• End the live export of animals;
• End religious slaughter;
• Prioritise a culture of animal welfare in agriculture;

This is what Labour’s manifesto says on animal welfare:

Animal Welfare

This is what the Conservative’s manifesto says on animal welfare (the issuu publication was not ideal for browsing so I did a simple search on ”animal” in the text and may for that reason have missed something):

We will continue to take action to improve animal welfare. We will implement our proposed reforms on pet sales and licensing and will make CCTV recording in slaughterhouses mandatory. As we leave the European Union, we can take early steps to control the export of live farm animals for slaughter.

My conclusion is his first statement is incorrect; both Labour and Conservatives mention animal welfare in their manifestos. As to what they say, one might ask what the difference is between >prioritising a culture of animal welfare in agriculture (For Britain) and promote cruelty-free animal husbandry (Labour)? They seem equally vague to me and I’d be much more interested to read any proposed legislation they might have been working on to achieve these goals. (As for the Conservatives I’m not sure how CCTV is supposed to make anyone feel better while being slaughtered…? Cf. Morrissey’s ”humane slaughter” argument.)

As for the second statement, on halal and kosher slaughter, it is notable that For Britain is the only one of the three parties who call for the end of any slaughter. On the other hand, they want to rebuild the UK fishing fleet and regrow the fishing industry, so the conclusion one can draw (and I’m genuinely surprised Morrissey does not do this, but on the other hand he probably has better things to do than look into political manifestos :)) from their manifesto is that the issue isn’t about animal welfare as much as racial positioning and national promotion – which is absolutely disgusting. The sociologist John Lever has written a short piece on the issue of how ”concerns about religious animal slaughter and animal welfare are consistent across […] historical periods and the paper explores the extent to which these issues act as a proxy for real life problems connected to wider processes of socioeconomic development and change.” (My italics)

Another interesting article on the topic is Killing Animals for Food: How Science, Religion and Technologies Affect the Public Debate About Religious Slaughter by sociologist Mara Miele, where she notes that the cultural amnesia regarding meat production (i.e. the UK view and knowledge on slaughterhouses as compared to non-mechanised slaughter on small scale farms) ”might create the conditions of possibility for cruelty of a new kind, on a greater, more deeply hidden scale” (i.e. the abattoir).

The whole piece is actually quite insightful (and doesn’t seem to evaluate which type of killing is the greater evil) and her end statement is: ”For [the current] ethical questioning [the] two institutions (the traditional practice of killing and the modern slaughterhouse) do not seem to offer satisfactory answers: the most pressing issue that will need to be addressed is not how to kill ‘humanely’ farm animals for food, but how to find ways to reduce the number of animals that need to be killed for food.”

Now, my ideal newspaper would have written about this instead. I mean, if the Guardian really wants to throw dirt on Morrissey, wouldn’t it be more satisfactory to do so with actual facts? Alas no, because what they do write on the issue is:

Morrissey instead throws his weight behind For Britain, the far-right party set up by former Ukip member Anne Marie Waters, someone he namechecked in a recent concert on the BBC. He said he was supporting the party because “they have the best approach to animal welfare”.

I did do search on the Guardian webpage for articles on [animal welfare ”for britain”] and [animal welfare ”anne marie waters”] and the only related things that show up in the search is more articles about Morrissey (really?) and this ludicrous piece on Easter eggs, where Anne Marie Waters try to make a cheap political point based on a Sainsbury’s tweet with incorrect facts, presumably made by a poor communications employee who really just makes it clear that large (and small) companies need to employ educated social media strategists who can anticipate which words and phrases might cause outrage by trolls on Twitter.

As usual my suggestion to everyone involved (fans, journalists, animal rights activists) is to read a book. Or just, you know, use the internet. It’s basically a library at your finger tips. Read, think – then write.

By the way, to whichever one of the mentioned groups you belong if I were you I’d be more worried about the lack of analysis and fact checking in the Guardian (and other newspapers, but does that even need to be said?). It is the press that is the fourth estate, not Morrissey.

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