Are animals sentient beings?

First let’s check you know what sentient means.

Sentient – adjective – able to perceive or feel things.

animals around table

Most of the UK’s animal welfare law comes from the EU, so it is quite interesting right now as part of Brexit whether MP’s in Parliament are choosing to continue the EU legislation word for word or water it down for a future UK outside the EU. The first step, with MP’s saying that animals are NOT sentient, seems to show they are not going to see animals as creatures that perceive and feel things.  The RSPCA said to Farming UK: “It’s shocking that MPs have given the thumbs down to incorporating animal sentience into post-Brexit UK law.” Meanwhile Nick Palmer, head of policy at Compassion in World Farming, said: “How can the UK be seen as a leader in animal welfare when the repeal bill fails to guarantee that animals will continue to be regarded as sentient beings? We urge the Government to reintroduce the commitment into the Bill.”

Some countries like New Zealand have shown far greater consideration of animal rights:

sentient new zealand

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Obituary for David Shepherd

Told by Slade School of Art in London that he had no artistic talent didn’t stop David Shepherd from being able to raise more than £8m for wildlife conservation by donating the proceeds from the sales of his painting to charities such as the World Wildlife Fund. Later in his life, in 1984, he set up the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation which campaigned to protect endangered species, and combat poaching and its trade.

a very wise old elephant

His paintings, whether they be of large animals or huge locomotives, showed the subject facing down the audience, bold and large. In 1970 the BBC made a documentary about him called The Man who Loved Giants.

In 2011 he launched a social media campaign to save the tiger in the wild, TigerTime.

“Man is the most stupid, arrogant and dangerous animal on Earth,” he said. “Every hour we destroy a species to extinction, and unless we start doing something about that very quickly, we are going to self-destruct.”

Are animals safe in zoos?

In the UK zoo inspectors will go and check on zoos incase they are mistreating animals. There are numerous laws to protect animals:

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Recently zoo inspectors said they had found “significant problems caused by overcrowding, poor hygiene, poor nutrition, lack of suitable animal husbandry and a lack of any sort of developed veterinary care” at South Lakes Safari Zoo.

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The Guardian reports that one African spurred tortoise named Goliath died after being electrocuted by electric fencing, while the decomposing body of a squirrel monkey was discovered behind a radiator. The zoo had a death rate of about 12% of its animals a year. Can you think of any more pros and cons of keeping animals in zoos?

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Religions have an opinion on zoos too: how do their teachings affect what they think of zoos?

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Oral contraceptive hidden in Nutella the plan to reduce the number of grey squirrels in UK

Contraception: the deliberate use of artificial methods or other techniques to prevent pregnancy as a consequence of sexual intercourse.

Oral contraceptive (the pill): are hormonally active pills which are usually taken by women on a daily basis.

Currently there are almost 3.5 millions grey squirrels in the UK. They are not indigenous to the island, instead brought to the UK by US landowners in Victorian times. Over hundreds of years they have dominated over the domestic red squirrel and attacked broadleaf trees. Moreover the most significant threat associated with grey squirrels is the spread and transmission of a disease called squirrelpox virus (SQPV). It can take only one grey squirrel to introduce this virus to a local population of red squirrels and then the virus can spread throughout the reds with devastating effect.

The number of red squirrels is down at 140,000 and the hope with this oral contraceptive plan is to humanely limit the reproduction of grey squirrels so over the next five years their numbers drop to 300,000. The plan has made the headlines because of Prince Charles’ support of it. A tongue in cheek article by the Guardian reports on these sterilisation plans.

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Should humans be meddling so much in animal numbers or should they leave nature to run its course? Do the grey squirrels have rights to be able to reproduce or should humans be intervening to save the red squirrels in the UK?

Free Range become Barn Eggs

We’re reported on this before but with Year 8 students currently starting a unit on creation, the environment and animal rights (Genesis), it is timely to see the story about free range eggs having to be re-labelled ‘housed in barns’ because bird flu is keeping them indoors (well the farmers are!).

The British Free Range Producers Association (BFREPA) said keeping chickens inside was a ‘necessary step’. Its chief executive Robert Gooch said: ‘The risk of infection is from wild migratory birds who are leaving cold weather feeding grounds and could head to the UK, carrying with them the potential to bring the H5N8 strain to our shores.

‘It would be devastating for a British producer to have to go through the heartbreak of seeing their entire flock wiped out by this virus as we have already seen in continental Europe.’

Mr Gooch added: ‘Housing birds presents significant challenges to free range egg producers but they understand that it is important to reduce the risk of AI spreading.

Plant Built

vegan-plant

A group of athletes call Plant Built have been making some headlines for their promotion of a vegan diet and the size of their muscles. Since 2012 they have been showing how you can be ripped by eating a vegan diet. The Vegan Zombie on YouTube invited some Plant Built athletes over to his kitchen to show what kind of food they eat.