Philip Lymbery | FIRST ‘LUCY’S LAW’, NEXT FACTORY FARMING, MR GOVE?
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FIRST ‘LUCY’S LAW’, NEXT FACTORY FARMING, MR GOVE?

What an absolute joy to hear of the success of the campaign for ‘Lucy’s Law’ this week.

Hats off to all involved in a brilliant campaign to persuade the government through Defra Minister, Michael Gove, to ban ‘puppy farming’ in England. The law, subject to consultation, will forbid pet shops and dealers from selling puppies and kittens. Instead, prospective pet owners will have to go direct to the breeder or rescue centre. It comes after a hard-fought campaign to show how some unscrupulous commercial breeders raise animals in horrendous conditions.

So, what made the campaign for Lucy’s Law so compelling?

Undoubtedly, a major factor was the strong individual story of Lucy, the dog that sparked the campaign. The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel was rescued from a Welsh puppy farm five years ago in a terrible state. Her hips had fused together, she had a curved spine, bald patches and epilepsy after years of mistreatment. She’d been kept in a cage much of her life as a puppy machine.

Yet, there are many equally compelling individual stories of every day cruelty that never get told; about the animals behind the closed doors of the factory farm.

Whereas arguably, spaniels are bred to look cute and appealing, to be someone’s pet, farm animals are bred for food.

Whether appealing to look at or not, pigs, chickens and cows are just as sentient. Just as able to suffer. And, if we let them, they are just as able to have a sense of pleasure. To experience the joy of life.

A year or so ago, Michael Gove found himself in the midst of a public outcry relating to fears that Brexit might mean the end of legal status for animals as ‘sentient’, something agreed by the European Union way back in 1997, following an historic campaign by Compassion in World Farming.

Since then, the government of the ‘nation of animal lovers’ has been keen to show their welfare credentials. Perhaps this was another factor behind the success of Lucy’s Law?

Intensively factory farmed pigs

The next step is surely for the government to focus on the biggest cause of animal cruelty in the country: factory farming.

A recent survey by Compassion in World Farming showed that Britain has over 700 mega-farms – large-scale factory farms – where pigs, chickens and cows live out their lives in darkened, barren sheds.

On factory farms, piglets are born to mothers crated so tightly they cannot even turn round for weeks at a time. These intelligent creatures – science shows us that pigs are every bit as smart as dogs – are often kept in the most barren conditions, reared in utter deprivation. For which the only ‘relief’ comes in the form of having their tails cut off to stop the bored creatures biting each other. Chickens are crammed into cages where they can’t flap their wings or are crowded in their tens of thousands in tightly packed flocks. And increasingly, cows are being taken off the rich, green pastures of Britain and put into indoor dairies, where they’ll never get to graze a blade of grass.

And much of this hidden behind labels like ‘fresh’ and ‘farm fresh’, which helps to keep consumers blind-folded as to what’s really going on.

Intensively farmed broiler chickens

These intensive farms are the new frontier for concern by the nation of animal lovers and, with Brexit looming, there really can be no excuse for the government ducking the need for a severe shake-up. Farmers in Britain receive over £3 billion in subsidy money – that’s taxpayers’ money, from you and me – much of which goes to encourage further intensification.

Michael Gove ushered in a brighter day for puppies and kittens; he should now set his sights on following through by banning factory farms. There are many ways in which this can be done. One is ban the very worst systems and practices; like so-called ‘enriched’ battery cages for hens and ‘farrowing’ crates that are used to immobilise mother pigs. Another way is to use taxpayers’ money more wisely – to ensure it only goes to farmers who are keeping their animals in the best conditions; such as pigs on straw, cows on pasture. Public money for public goods, if you like. ‘Public goods’ in this respect being the need to raise animals in keeping with what is expected by the public in this nation of animal lovers.

So, again, I rejoice at the success of the campaign for Lucy’s Law. It is a tremendously positive step forward. And well done to the government for getting behind it.

Now it is time for Michael Gove to seize the post-Brexit opportunity of a Lucy’s Law-style shake-up of British farming. Only through such a move can Britain really square its farming practices with that long-standing reputation as a nation of animal lovers.