11 Apr An Easter like no other
As we head into the weekend, having experienced another week of warm spring sunshine, I’d like to take a moment to think about Easter during this extraordinary lockdown period. These are strange and difficult times and of course, many of us are fortunate to be healthy and safe but thoughts for the key workers on the front line and the sick and the aged and infirm, are never far away.
Traditionally, Easter is a time for family; for spending time together, for reflection, for sharing food, for Easter egg hunts, hot cross buns and dare I say, chocolate eggs. Yet, now we find ourselves confined to our homes, isolated from many loved ones. Those without a garden, have the added challenge of the same four walls, after perhaps only an hour of outdoor exercise.
Many of us miss the freedom we once had, unable to stretch our legs and feel the warm sun on our skin. This loss of freedom can make our home environments feel very small and perhaps it is not surprising that mental health issues can arise.
For me, this has only heightened the empathy I feel for the victims of intensive factory farming. Egg laying hens, stuck in a cage and cruelly confined for their short lives, each with an area measuring less than the size of a standard piece of typing paper. Sows, known to be more intelligent than dogs, spend weeks at a time in a cage so small they can’t even turn around.
Rabbits, a childhood favourite at Easter, have a desperately short life and are largely forgotten as an industrially farmed species. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that 325 million rabbits are slaughtered annually in the EU, making rabbits the second-most farmed species in Europe. The vast majority are raised in industrial caged farming systems, that cause severe suffering. With barely any space, they can’t do even the most basic of behaviours like lying stretched out, sitting with their ears erect or getting up on their haunches, to explore what’s around them. Some don’t even have enough space to perform a single hop.
Every year over 300 million animals in Europe, spend all or a significant part of their lives imprisoned in cages. There is every likelihood that the packaging alone on your chocolate egg or bunny, will be bigger than the area of the cages for egg laying hens and rabbits. It’s a solemn and sad thought.
However, there is good news on the horizon. Last year, I was thrilled to be in Brussels in early October, along with other leaders in animal welfare, supporters and MEPs. We celebrated achieving a record-breaking European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) petition with over 1.6 million signatures, sending a resounding message to the European Commission that cage cruelty must stop. Sadly, due to Covid-19, things have been delayed but rest assured, when business resumes, we will continue our battle and push for cages to be banned.
There is no doubt, that due to these challenging pandemic times, this Easter will be like no other. This is a time to thank health service professionals and other key workers tirelessly keeping us safe. A time to remember family and friends who we would otherwise have been with. A time to look to a better future, once this pandemic passes, for people, animals and the planet.
So, wishing you all, wherever you are, a very Happy Easter. Now, when kindness for all has never been so important and so necessary, let’s extend that compassion to all creatures, be they great or small.