Animal Welfare Campaigners and UK Politicians Clash Over Live Exports


Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised to ban live animal exports as soon as Britain officially left the EU. But an upcoming court case is spreading doubt about whether or not he will follow through.Reading Time: 4 minutes

transport truck cattle
Jo-Anne McArthur/We Animals

UK animal welfare campaigners who saw a vote for Brexit as an opportunity to end live farmed animal exports are perplexed by recent government efforts to defend the trade. 

Told for years that European Union laws prevented a British ban on live exports, campaigners reasoned a pro-Brexit vote to leave the EU was the solution. That belief was backed by promises from Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. In June, Johnson reiterated his promise to ban live exports as soon as Britain officially leaves the EU on December 31st this year.

But an upcoming court case is spreading doubt about those promises. The case, taken by British welfare group Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), seeks to end the export of unweaned calves from Scotland. A win, said CIWF lawyer Peter Stevenson, could have repercussions throughout the EU.

The problem for campaigners is that both the British and Scottish governments have taken recent steps to oppose CIWF’s case—due to be heard again in October—effectively protecting live exports.

On the British side, Stevenson said, opposition to CIWF’s case comes in an official document, submitted to the Scottish court by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). In Scotland, the government has appointed a barrister to fight the case.

Campaigners abhor live export for many reasons but top of the list is the experience of farmed animals in transport. Calves and sheep exported from the British port of Ramsgate spend many hours in ‘roll on, roll off’ trucks taking them from collection points to the port, onto ferries, and then to different parts of Europe.

For calves, the misery is compounded by a lack of liquid milk replacer. Other concerns include the rate at which the trucks fill with feces and urine, poor access to water, extreme heat in summer, cold in winter, cramped conditions, and the risk of injury or trampling. 

Last year, official figures obtained by welfare organization, Eyes on Animals, show almost 3,500 unweaned (or milk-reliant) calves left from Ramsgate, a small port town in southeast Britain, along with 17,000 sheep. 

Asked about the apparent contradiction of promising an end to live export, while fighting CIWF in court, DEFRA refused to comment on an ongoing legal case. In an email, however, a DEFRA spokesperson said the British government “has committed to improving the welfare of animals during transport and ending excessively long journeys for slaughter and fattening.”

A Scottish government spokesperson replied in a similar vein, saying it “would not be appropriate to comment while legal proceedings are ongoing.” The email added that “our preferred policy intention is not to support unnecessary long journeys involved in the export of livestock.”

Lorraine Platt, co-founder of the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation (CAWF) said she found the Scottish government’s opposition to the CIWF case “deeply disappointing.” 

CAWF patrons include high-profile politicians and peers, among them Lord Zac Goldsmith, recently appointed as Minister of State at DEFRA; Theresa Villiers, Minister of Parliament (MP); Sir Roger Gale MP; Sir David Amess MP and Carrie Symonds, Boris Johnson’s partner. “And they are very vocal,” in support of a live export ban, said Platt.  

Asked if she remained optimistic about ending live exports, despite the opposition to CIWF’s case, Platt said yes. “We never give up hope. There is great political will to end this. Boris Johnson wants to end it. And his partner Carrie Symonds and his father Stanley Johnson.”

She added that CAWF is equally hopeful that Brexit will lead to further animal welfare initiatives, notably bans on imports of fur and foie gras. 

Other protesters variously described government opposition to CIWF’s case as frustrating, strange, illogical, or hypocritical. One, who asked to remain anonymous due to fears of retaliation by farmers or live export companies, wondered whether politicians had gone soft. “I understood that with the Brexit vote, the ban on live exports might not be immediate. But now they are defending [the CIWF case] in court. We think they are trying to wriggle out of it, or they lied,” the protester said.

The protester is one of many regulars at the Ramsgate demonstrations, which can draw crowds of up to 100 people. The demonstrations are organized by KAALE – Kent Action Against Live Exports. KAALE’s secretary is Yvonne Birchall. She too voted Brexit in the hopes of ending live exports.   

Speaking the morning after a July 9th Ramsgate protest, Birchall said that despite government opposition to the CIWF court case, she believes a ban will happen. “Boris won our votes on the promise of banning live export. If he breaks that he won’t get re-elected by us,” she said.

There are other reasons for optimism, added Birchall. One of those is an amendment to the Agriculture Bill that could ban live exports for slaughter and fattening tabled by Baroness Fookes, Conservative Party member and Life Peer in the House of Lords. “We think there will be cross-party support for that.” 

Birchall said the previous night’s protest had been tough. “[The police commander] was very aggressive. The lorries [carrying animals to the port] came round the roundabout [where the protesters stand] at high speed – too quick for the conditions and the number of people. Our video team started to film, as we always do, and then the police were trying to stop us. That does not normally happen. I was shocked.” 

Birchall added more details in a Facebook post and told Sentient Media she had a “sneaking suspicion” the police were trying to prevent filming “because we have been finding so many things wrong.” 

Responding to Birchall’s criticisms, Kent chief inspector Alan Rogers said while police understand the “depth of feeling” protesters might have, they are “impartial and officers have a duty of care to keep everyone safe.” Rogers added that officers are specially trained “to respond proportionately to peaceful protest, prevent crime and disorder, and allow businesses to go about their lawful trade.”

The lawfulness of trade is, however, exactly the issue protesters want to see examined in court, using the evidence—provided to CIWF for their case—collected over many years by what Birchall calls KAALE’s “machine of people” that bear witness at the port.

How fireworks harm nonhuman animals

Fireworks and other explosive materials, whose reactions can produce sparks, flames, and fumes, cause various harms to nonhuman animals. These often affect animals who are human companions, and whose reactions we can easily see. They also harm the other animals who are around us, both in urban environments and outside them, as well as those who are on farms or confined in other spaces.

Physical damage to the hearing organs of animals

The hearing of many animals is much more sensitive than it is in humans, so the explosions of fireworks are not only more disturbing to them, but they can damage their hearing more severely. Fireworks can emit sounds of up to 190 decibels (110 to 115 decibels above the range of 75 to 80 decibels where the damage to the human ear begins). Fireworks generate a higher noise level than firecrackers, gunshots (140 decibels), and some jet planes (100 decibels).

Noises caused by fireworks and firecrackers can lead to loss of hearing and tinnitus. Dogs are known to suffer irreversible hearing loss caused by proximity to the noise of gunfire.

Fear and stress

In addition to these harms, the noises caused by fireworks harm animals by causing fear. In fact, repeated exposure to unexpected, unpredictable loud noises can cause phobias in many animals, increasing panic reactions to loud noises in the future.1

It is estimated that one-fifth of disappearances of animals who are companions to humans are due to very loud sounds, mainly fireworks and storms.2

The effects of fireworks on animals can be observed very clearly in zoos.3 It has been shown that the noise of fireworks makes animals such as rhinos and cheetahs very nervous, also visibly affecting others such as elephants, while rodents continue running minutes after the noises cease.4

Harmful effects by chemical particles

In addition, firecrackers are poisonous, and their explosion releases harmful particles such as fine dust (PM10) that is toxic to inhale. It can worsen existing diseases and cause others. Therefore, fireworks represent a danger both to animals who live in areas where they explode, or in relatively distant locations when the wind transports the particles.5 There is also a risk of ingestion of the residue of fireworks and firecrackers.6 The proximity of the animals to the areas where the firecrackers are made often causes burns and damage to the eyes.

The chemicals are also dangerous for cats and dogs, just as they are for humans with respiratory diseases such as asthma. Careless use of fireworks can also cause mutilations and fatal accidents in animals near the event, as well as causing fires that harm animals. When accidents of this type occur that affect humans, it is common for us to talk about it, but we must remember such things often affect animals of other species even when humans aren’t badly affected.

Ways different animals are affected by fireworks


Dogs are able to hear up to 60,000hz, while humans can’t hear anything above 20,000hz, which is only a third of the capacity of dogs. This auditory acuity of dogs is one of the reasons the sound of fireworks can be so harmful to them. They show signs of overwhelming anxiety as they are unable to escape from the sound.7

Dogs, like many other animals, also suffer from other phenomena that produce loud sounds, such as storms. However, in the case of storms, the noises are accompanied by previous warning signs, so that animals can perceive them in advance. This can cause them anguish in anticipation, but it does not cause them the unexpected fright caused by fireworks, which are sudden and not identifiable.8 The fear of noise among older dogs is more common.9

Many urban dogs suffer negative symptoms from the explosions of firecrackers. Common reactions are freezing or paralysis, uncontrolled attempts to escape and hide, and tremors. Other more intense signs may also be present, such as salivation, tachycardia, intense vocalizations, urination or defecation, increased activity, hyper alertness and gastrointestinal disorders. All these signs are indicative of great discomfort.

It has been pointed out that the reaction of dogs to the sound of fireworks is similar to post-traumatic stress in human animals. However, this effect could be much more harmful in dogs, because they do not have the ability to rationalize their anxiety, or the possibility of an immediate cognitive response that allows them to respond to their fear. It is likely they experience a deeper and more intense form of terror. This is in addition to the noise phobia which can be greater in some dogs due to personality differences. It is important to keep in mind that in the first years of their lives, dogs are especially vulnerable to the development of phobias, and exposing them to sounds like fireworks contributes to future fear responses that they might not otherwise have had. It has been estimated that one in two dogs has significant fear reactions to fireworks.10


The effects of fireworks on cats are less obvious, but their responses are similar to those of dogs, such as trying to hide or escape.11 However, regardless of the fear they have, they have a higher risk of being poisoned. Many cats who are near areas where firecrackers are made ingest them or their parts. In addition, they can go blind or be seriously injured by the explosions of firecrackers.12


Horses can easily feel threatened by fireworks due to their hypervigilance since they are constantly on high alert due to possible predators.13 Horses also act quite similarly to dogs and cats, showing signs of stress and fear, and trying to flee or escape. It is estimated that 79% of horses experience anxiety because of firecrackers, and 26% suffer injuries from them. Sometimes they react to fireworks by trying to jump fences and flee to dangerous areas where they can be run over by cars.14


The noise of firecrackers can cause birds tachycardia and even death by fright. The high degree of stress birds experience is indicated by the fact that birds may temporarily or permanently abandon the places where they are.15

In areas that are ​​aircraft flyover zones, Creole ducks grow more slowly and have a lower body weight than Creole ducks who live in areas with little noise. Snow geese affected by these noises spend less time eating during the day and try to compensate during the night, which entails shortening their period of rest and sleep, gradually reducing their survival rate.16

Disorientation and panic from fireworks can cause birds to crash into buildings or fly towards the sea. The colonial species of birds who nest in high densities, such as silver gulls, are at greater risk of this during explosions of firecrackers. Many birds who flee from their nests due to the sounds do not know how to return to their nests once the noise ends, which leaves many of their young helpless.

Invertebrates and small vertebrates

The harms caused to invertebrates and small vertebrates have been evaluated much less than those caused to the animals discussed above. Presumably, these animals can do little to avoid harm if the explosions occur in areas near where they live. Keep in mind that for these animals fireworks are very large explosions, so the harms to them can be much greater than in other animals.17

Alternatives to the use of fireworks

There is a growing acceptance of alternatives to fireworks, such as laser light shows. One notable case is in the city of Collechio (Italy), one of the first to program silent fireworks, with the message that it is possible to enjoy fireworks without causing panic among the nonhuman inhabitants of the municipality.18 However, there is the possibility that this type of show may affect birds negatively.

Some might think that administering a soothing drug to animals could be the solution, but this proposal isn’t satisfactory for two reasons. First, the use of drugs to calm animals could cause harmful side effects. Second, we wouldn’t be able to reach almost all of the animals affected by fireworks. The animals who live with human beings are not the only ones harmed. Even if we only consider domesticated animals in urban areas, there are animals who live in the street or are alone. In addition, domesticated animals are the minority of animals affected. We must take into account all animals who live outside the reach of humans, whether in the wild or in urban environments, as well as those on farms and other places where they are exploited. For this reason, the only really satisfactory solution is to reject the use of fireworks.

Further readings

Asociación de Veterinarios Abolicionistas de la Tauromaquia y del Maltrato Animal (2017) “Informe técnico veterinario sobre los impactos de la pirotecnia en los animales”, AVATMA [accessed on 13 January 2019].

Bowen, J. (2015) “Prevalence and impact of sound sensitivity in dogs”, Vet Times, October 19 [accessed on 18 June 2019].

British Veterinary Association (2016) “Policy statement: Fireworks and animal welfare”, Policy, March [accessed on 24 April 2019].

Brown, A. L. & Raghu, S. (1998) “An overview of research on the effects of noise on animals”, Acoustics Australia, 26, pp. 63-67.

Dale, A. R.; Walker, J. K.; Farnworth, M. J.; Morrissey, S. V. & Waran, N. K. (2010) “A survey of owners’ perceptions of fear of fireworks in a sample of dogs and cats in New Zealand”, New Zealand Veterinary Journal, 58, pp. 286-291 [accessed on 25 April 2019].

Gahagan, P. & Wismer, T. (2012) “Toxicology of explosives and fireworks in small animals”, Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small animal practice, 42, pp. 361-373.

Overall, K. L.; Dunham, A. E. & Frank, D. (2001) “Frequency of nonspecific clinical signs in dogs with separation anxiety, thunderstorm phobia, and noise phobia, alone or in combination”, Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 219, pp. 467-473.

Shamoun-Baranes, J.; Dokter, A. M.; van Gasteren, H.; van Loon, E. E.; Leijnse, H. & Bouten, W. (2011) “Birds flee en mass from New Year’s Eve fireworks”, Behavioral Ecology, 22, pp. 1173-1177 [accessed on 30 March 2019].

Shannon, G.; McKenna, M. F.; Angeloni, L. M.; Crooks, K. R.; Fristrup, K. M.; Brown, E.; Warner, K. A.; Nelson, M. D.; White, C.; Briggs, J.; McFarland, S. & Wittemyer, G. (2016) “A synthesis of two decades of research documenting the effects of noise on wildlife”, Biological Reviews, 91, pp. 982-1005.

Simpson, S. D.; Radford, A. N.; Nedelec, S. L.; Ferrari, M. C.; Chivers, D. P.; McCormick, M. I. & Meekan, M. G. (2016) “Anthropogenic noise increases fish mortality by predation”, Nature Communications, 7 [accessed on 12 May 2019].


1 British Small Animal Veterinary Association (2019) “Fireworks”, BSAVA [accessed on 18 June 2019].

2 American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (2015) “Independence Day can be perilous for pets”, ASPCA [accessed on 27 February 2019].

3 In one case, the noise caused by nearby works were a cause of stress for snow leopards kept in zoos. They withdrew to the most remote parts of their exhibition area, and spent more time sleeping than on the days when there was no noise. We can imagine the harm caused by much more thunderous sounds, such as those caused by fireworks. Sulser, E.; Steck, B. L. & Baur, B. (2008) “Effects of construction noise on behaviour of and exhibit use by snow leopards Uncia uncia at Basel zoo”, International Zoo Yearbook, 42, pp. 199-205.

4 Rodewald, A.; Gansloßer, U. & Kölpin, T. (2014) “Influence of fireworks on zoo animals: Studying different species at the zoopark erfurt during the classic nights”, International Zoo News, 61, pp. 264-271.

5 Greven, F. E.; Vonk, J. M.; Fischer, P.; Duijm, F.; Vink, N. M. & Brunekreef, B. (2019) “Air pollution during New Year’s fireworks and daily mortality in the Netherlands”, Scientific Reports, 9 [accessed on 11 June 2019].

6 Stanley, M. K.; Kelers, K.; Boller, E. & Boller, M. (2019) “Acute barium poisoning in a dog after ingestion of handheld fireworks (party sparklers)”, Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care, 29, pp. 201-207.

7 Blackwell, E. J.; Bradshaw, J. W. & Casey, R. A. (2013) “Fear responses to noises in domestic dogs: Prevalence, risk factors and co-occurrence with other fear related behaviour”, Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 145, pp. 15-25.

8 Franzini de Souza, C. C.; Martins Maccariello, C. E.; Martins Dias, D. P.; dos Santos Almeida, N. A.; Alves de Medeiros, M. (2017) “Autonomic, endocrine and behavioural responses to thunder in laboratory and companion dogs”, Physiology & Behavior, 169, pp. 208-215.

9 Storengen, L. M. & Lingaas, F. (2015) “Noise sensitivity in 17 dog breeds: Prevalence, breed risk and correlation with fear in other situations”, Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 171, pp. 152-160.

10 Hargrave, C. (2018) “Firework fears and phobias in companion animals – why do we let owners take the one in two chance?”, The Veterinary Nurse, 9, pp. 392-392.

11 Ibid.

12 Especismo Cero (2011) “Pirotecnia y sus consecuencias en los animales”, [accessed on 2 April 2019].

13 British Horse Society (2018) “Fireworks”, BHS [accessed on 30 April 2019].

14 Gronqvist, G.; Rogers, C. & Gee, E. (2016) “The management of horses during fireworks in New Zealand”, Animals, 6, 20 [accessed on 2 January 2019].

15 Schiavini, A. (2015) Efectos de los espectáculos de fuegos artificiales en la avifauna de la Reserva Natural Urbana Bahía Cerrada, Ushuaia: Centro Austral de Investigaciones Científicas [accessed on 26 June 2019].

16 Conomy, J. T.; Dubovsky, J. A.; Collazo, J. A. & Fleming, W. J. (1998) “Do black ducks and wood ducks habituate to aircraft disturbance?”, Journal of Wildlife Management, 62, pp. 1135-1142.

17 Morley, E. L.; Jones, G. & Radford, A. N. (2014) “The importance of invertebrates when considering the impacts of anthropogenic noise”, Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 281, 20132683. Studies have also been conducted on the effects of noise on marine invertebrates, due to their economic interest. Hawkins, A. D.; Pembroke, A. E. & Popper, A. N. (2015) “Information gaps in understanding the effects of noise on fishes and invertebrates”, Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries, 25, 39-64; Nedelec, S. L.; Radford, A. N.; Simpson, S. D.; Nedelec, B.; Lecchini, D. & Mills, S. C. (2014) “Anthropogenic noise playback impairs embryonic development and increases mortality in a marine invertebrate”, Scientific Reports, 4, p. 5891.

18 Venzel, S. (2016) “Town in Italy keeps animals calm with silent fireworks”, Wide Open Pets [accessed on 13 March 2019].


Your New Kitten

by Jethro Tull’s singer/songwriter/flautest/guitarist Ian Anderson

Tis the time of the season for new kittens, born in the later months of the year to be ready to leave home and join their new owners. Here, below, is the advisory material which I sent out recently with some orphaned kittens which we had been rearing.

Your new kitten was found under a garden logpile by Lucinda in Buckinghamshire, just over two weeks ago. Perhaps their mother had abandoned them or was killed in a road accident. Or, perhaps, some misguided human hand was involved in dumping the kitties, hoping that they could fend for themselves.
They couldn’t.

They were barely five weeks old and just beginning to walk about. They could lap liquids and eat solid food, suggesting that they had come from a household environment and were at least partly weaned, but wouldn’t have survived long without Lucinda’s intervention. They were nervous, hissed and spat a bit but seemed to have had some prior human contact. Definitely not feral (“wild”) farm cats. We have reared several litters of feral kittens over the years and we needed stout leather gloves to pick them up for the first few days – whereas this little band of brother and sisters were happy enough to be handled and after two or three days of special care, would soon come when called and be quite relaxed around adults, children, other cats and even respectful dogs.

But, as a rule, kittens should be ideally kept together to learn playing and social skills for 8 – 10 weeks before going off to their new homes. Pedigree kittens don’t go until they are 12 weeks of age after they have been wormed, received the second of their injections, and matured enough to be able to adjust to a new human family.

Your kitten was probably born around the 15th of November, 2002 and is now still only about 7 weeks of age. The litter contained four females and one male. He/she has had an attentive human surrogate mum and dad here in Wiltshire for two weeks and will cuddle, purr and do all the things which kittens are supposed to do – including tearing around the place and climbing on furniture.

But, still being a little on the young side to venture forth without its brothers or sisters, your kitten will need extra attention to help settle down in its new environment. She/he will be best kept in one room for a few days but will be adventurous enough to soon visit other parts of the house under supervision. Existing pets should be gradually introduced to their new pal (stroke, praise and re-assure both equally) but they should not be left alone together until you are absolutely sure of their reliable behaviour to each other.

The kitten is already (dare I say completely?) reliable in the use of a cat litter tray and anyway far too young to let outdoors yet. The best cat litter trays are those with a roof over – rather like a cat carrying basket. With this type the kitten, as it gets older, is less likely to kick cat litter around the room when covering its pees and poos. We have already given her/him three days of worming treatment following a preliminary veterinary visit for a general inspection to confirm sex and basic good health. A second worming treatment (the second of many to come) should be carried out two weeks after the first. At this stage we are talking about round worms. Palatable wormers can be mixed with food. Tapeworm treatment will probably be necessary as the cat gets older and hunts wild prey.

The diet has been Whiskas Kitten food three times a day with high-protein dry pelleted kitten food (Hills Kitten Science Diet) available for “snacking”. A powdered mother’s milk substitute (Cimicat, available from your vet) mixed with water has been fed as liquid. No regular cow’s milk should be given to kittens (or cats) since it contains far too much lactose and is harmful to them. These specially formulated feeds are available from veterinary practices and good pet stores. Whiskas Kitten food should be found at all large supermarkets. We are supplying a “starter pack” of Cimicat and Hills diet, and a tin of Kitten Whiskas to get you over the first day. (The kitten will be ravenous when it arrives home with you.)

All of our grown-up cats are fed regular adult Hills Science Diet and this is their staple food with occasional treats of fish (frozen coley fillets are quite cheap and much appreciated), Whiskas or similar moist canned foods. IAMs solid foods are also good. The dried food at supermarkets is not such a good bet. Semi-moist pelleted foods are OK but Hills and IAMs are the best. They keep longer, can be left out for snacking on demand, and probably work out cheaper in the long run. Decanting the bag into a container with a lid is best. The food keeps longer that way. Household scraps are no substitute for balanced cat diets. Your kitten/cat may enjoy raw chicken or turkey (mince or pieces) as it gets older but only as an occasional treat. Reliance on such luxuries could be seriously damaging to your bank balance and not much good as a balanced diet.

Young kittens should stick mainly to one food type plus milk substitute until they have settled down. If you vary the diet too much their tummies have difficulty coping and diarrhoea will result. One of the little guys seems to have a sensitive tummy and needs extra care in feeding. If your kitten has persistent diarrhoea for two or more days, a vet visit is necessary. After a few weeks, the kitten can progress to weaker solutions of milk substitute and then to water alone. At six months of age, “big boys” foods are fine – no need to have the slight extra cost of high protein kitten diets.

Injections for potentially lethal cat diseases are necessary at eight and twelve weeks of age. Call your vet next week to arrange. Worming and de-flea-ing are an ongoing reality for kittens and cats once they are out and about in the outdoor world. Any fights with other cats resulting in a puncture wound (not always easily visible) can turn quickly septic, requiring antibiotics.

A modern each-way lockable cat-flap is a big help to owner and cat alike. They are available at pet stores and quite easy to fit in most doors.

Picking kittens (or cats) by the scruff of the neck may seem to some like the traditional way to handle your pet. This is really not a good idea. They hate it! Kittens (and cats) prefer to be picked up with a hand under their chests and with the other hand under their back feet so they can “sit” upright and stable. These kittens have all been held that way during the last two weeks and are relaxed and comfortable being held. We have not encouraged them to sit on our shoulders or to climb our legs but they do try!

When your kitten ventures out for the first time in the Spring some supervision is necessary. Ponds or other water features in your garden could be lethal if the kitten should fall in. The kitten will swim like a fish if need be but has to be able to scramble out. A steep sided pond should have some wire or plastic netting at the edge, held down by bricks or stones, trailing into the water so the kitten can climb out.

At around 6 – 8 months of age you should seriously consider neutering your cat. Un-neutered males will spray, wander and be a nuisance to neighbours. Females will become pregnant with maybe two litters per year from the age of 11 months onwards. According to some national statistics, 40% of cats die on our roads before they are two years of age. Neutering will help to discourage them from wandering. No guarantee, but better done than not. It is rarely practical to keep your cat indoors permanently but you may wish to consider that option if you live close to a road, unsympathetic neighbours or have no enclosed garden.

It is kinder to cats, and to you, if you have them neutered sooner than later. It will prove less traumatic for the younger cat and it will probably be home the same afternoon, have forgiven you by the next day and forgotten about it completely the day after. Especially if you have been the bringer of Waitrose Frozen Coley.

Pet insurance is really worth considering. It is relatively cheap – especially for young “moggies” – given that cat fights, road accidents or illness can cost hundreds or even thousands of pounds in vet’s bills. But your new pal will likely cost you £8 – £12 per week for life in food, health care and new furniture. Scratching posts and cat toys are a good investment.

Sorry to sound bossy on all these topics, but if you haven’t had a young kitten before, or just forgotten how to be mum, a visit to the bookshop would be in order to pick up a copy of any decent book on caring for your cat. Some of the writers are even more bossy than me – but you see we all are a bit nuts about cats, and can’t help but want to give them the best start in life.

Your new kitten will hopefully be with you for the next fifteen years, or so, and be a loyal and loving companion. When we had to say goodbye to our old and ill black cat three weeks ago, it reminded us of the value of such relationships and we appreciate all the more the enjoyment of having played a part in the bringing up of these young kittens. We have kept one to live here at home with her two new older buddies TJ and Bhajee.

If you have any problems or questions regarding your new kitten settling in, don’t hesitate to call Ian or Shona Anderson on *************** – in fact, please call us anyway. Having been temporary mum and dad to these little guys over the Christmas period, we – like any proud ex-guardians – would like to know how they are getting on in their new homes.

If the worst should happen and you change your mind or don’t feel up to looking after your new charge after a week or two, we can help re-home it or maybe find it a home here. Understandably, it is harder to find homes for adult cats.

Kind regards and good luck with the new addition,

Ian Anderson.

Cory Booker was asked about veganism at the debate. He missed an opportunity


Why didn’t he seize the chance to talk about his animal welfare plan?

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) speaks during the third Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign.
 Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

“You are a vegan since 2014, and that’s obviously a personal choice,” moderator Jorge Ramos said to Sen. Cory Booker during the Democratic debate. “Should people follow your diet?”

It was a question that seemed to come out of nowhere. Booker looked surprised by it, which makes sense — when’s the last time you remember veganism getting airtime in a presidential debate? But he quickly recovered and gave his answer: No.

Then, very briefly, he talked about the factory farming system that supplies most of the meat we eat, a system that subjects animals to such cruel conditions that there are laws to keep the mistreatment hidden from public view. In the US, a small number of corporations controls most of our meat production and squeezes out small farms.

“One of the reasons that I have a bill to put a moratorium on this kind of corporate consolidation is because this factory farming is destroying and hurting our environment, and you see independent family farmers being pushed out of business because of the kind of incentives we are giving that don’t line up with our values,” Booker said. “That’s what I’m calling for.”

And that was it. “But I want to switch,” he continued, and turned the discussion to US war veterans, making the inarguable point that they deserve better care.

It’s understandable that Booker didn’t dwell too long on the veganism question; perhaps he didn’t want to risk alienating voters by coming off as preachy. Telling everyone that they should give up all animal products would probably not have played well, especially since the debate took place in Texas, which raises more cattle than any other state in the country.

But Booker missed a golden opportunity to talk about his animal welfare plan. If you haven’t heard about it, you’re not alone — the plan appears on Booker’s website, but he hasn’t really been hyping it.

By contrast, last month Julián Castro rolled out his own plan for animal welfare — which is much more comprehensive than Booker’s — and he savvily framed it as a way of sticking it to President Trump. “This groundbreaking plan will undo Donald Trump’s damage,” Castro said. His Protecting Animals and Wildlife plan would strengthen the Endangered Species Act, which Trump has weakened. And it would stop Americans from importing animal trophies that result from big-game hunting — something Donald Trump Jr. is known to love.

It’s good policy as well as smart politics. Americans are increasingly concerned with animal welfare. The incredibly rapid embrace of plant-based meat products like Impossible Burgers and Beyond Meat is, in part, attributable to a growing sense that we can and should be inflicting far less suffering on animals.

A 2015 Gallup poll found that 62 percent of Americans said animals deserve some legal protections. Another 32 percent — nearly one-third — expressed an even stronger pro-animal stance, saying they believe animals should get the same rights as people. In 2008, only 25 percent voiced that view.

It seems more and more Americans are coming to see animals as part of our moral circle, the boundary we draw around those we consider worthy of ethical consideration. Castro, aware of that trend, is leveraging it to the advantage of animals — and his candidacy.

Booker should’ve done the same. After all, he has a strong record on animal welfare issues. As his own website says:

Cory has led his colleagues in the Senate in blocking appropriations riders that sought to undermine the Endangered Species Act and delist vulnerable species such as Grey Wolves and Grizzly Bears, and he has introduced legislation that would require federal facilities to comply with the minimum standards of care in the Animal Welfare Act.

When Cory helped write a major update to our federal chemical safety law, Cory worked for over a year to include new limits on animal testing in the bill — and it is estimated that these protections will save hundreds of thousands of animals from needless suffering. Cory has also introduced a bill to extend federal prohibitions on animal fighting to the U.S. territories and got it passed into law in the final 2018 farm bill, saving thousands of animals every year from suffering and dying.

Plus, Booker’s animal welfare plan contains some worthy ideas, any one of which it would have been great to mention. Here are a few notable examples from his website:

  • Make extreme acts of animal cruelty a federal crime and establish an animal cruelty crimes enforcement unit within the Department of Justice
  • Create millions of new acres of wildlife habitat, restoring and protecting ecosystems that will provide a lifeline for species facing the threat of extinction
  • Immediately end all animal testing for cosmetics and develop scientifically reliable alternative methods in order to end all animal testing by 2025

Booker could’ve helped bring mainstream attention to these ideas by devoting even a minute or two to them during the debate. Had he leaned into the moderator’s question, he also could’ve presented himself as a leader on an issue that’s increasingly attracting American voters’ concern. Unfortunately, he shied away from the moment.

Doris Day, Hollywood actress and singer, dies aged 97

Media captionDavid Sillito looks back at Doris Day’s illustrious career

Hollywood legend Doris Day, whose films made her one of the biggest stars of all time, has died aged 97.

The singer turned actress starred in films such as Calamity Jane and Pillow Talk and had a hit in 1956 with Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be).

Her screen partnership with Rock Hudson is one of the best-known in the history of romantic movies.

In a statement, the Doris Day Animal Foundation said she died on Monday at her home in Carmel Valley, California.

It said she had been “in excellent physical health for her age, until recently contracting a serious case of pneumonia”.

“She was surrounded by a few close friends as she passed,” the statement continued.

Born Mary Ann Von Kappelhoff in April 1922, Day originally wanted to be a dancer but had to abandon her dream after breaking her right leg in a car accident.

Instead she began her singing career at the age of 15. Her first hit, Sentimental Journey, would become a signature tune.

Her films, which included Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much and That Touch of Mink, made her known around the world.

But she never won an Oscar and was nominated only once, in 1960, for Pillow Talk, the first of her three romantic comedies with Hudson.

Honours she did receive included the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2004 and a lifetime achievement Grammy in 2008.

Her last release, the compilation album My Heart, went to number one in the UK in 2011.

Doris DayImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionDay’s real life was not as upbeat as her on-screen persona

Day’s wholesome, girl-next-door image was a popular part of her myth that sometimes invited ridicule.

“I’ve been around so long, I knew Doris Day before she was a virgin,” the musician Oscar Levant once remarked.

Day herself said her “Miss Chastity Belt” image was “more make-believe than any film part [she] ever played.”

Her life was certainly not as sunny. She married four times, was divorced three times and was widowed once.

She also suffered a mental breakdown and had severe financial trouble after one husband squandered her money.

In the 1970s, she turned away from performing to focus her energies on her animal foundation.

According to the organisation, she wished to have no funeral, memorial service or grave marker.

Doris Day in 1985Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionIn later life she became an advocate for animal welfare

Star Trek actor William Shatner remembered Day on Twitter as “the World’s Sweetheart,” saying she was “beloved by all”.

Fellow Star Trek cast member George Takei said she was “synonymous with Hollywood icon“, while Spanish actor Antonio Banderas wrote: “Thank you for your talent.”

Novelist Paulo Coelho marked her passing by quoting lyrics from Secret Love, one of her numbers in Calamity Jane.

“We’ve lost another great Hollywood talent,” tweeted Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane, while actor Luke Evans said he had “always loved” her voice and “beautiful” songs.

Changing our diets to save the world

IN-DEPTH: Can we grow enough food to feed us all in a changing climate? And can New Zealand thrive as a dairy exporter without worsening climate change? Eloise Gibson spoke to IPCC food security and farming experts and found them surprisingly upbeat.

If we’re honest, the question on New Zealanders’ lips at a meeting of top scientists in Christchurch before Easter was a variation of that Kiwi classic: what do you think of New Zealand?

Newsroom specifically wanted to know what the experts thought of New Zealand’s prospects of thriving as a meat and dairy-exporting nation, in a future where people eat less meat and milk.

We talked through the issues with five experts, whose readiness to answer suggested we were not the first to raise it since they reached our shores.

As the rest of New Zealand prepared to gorge on marshmallow and chocolate eggs, they were here with more than a hundred other agriculture and climate scientists considering the much less sweet task of how to feed the world without worsening climate change.

It’s the second meeting of the 120 researchers, who are now about a quarter of the way through drafting the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report on Climate Change and Land.

The report, scheduled for August 2019, will cover desertification, land degradation, food security, sustainable land management and greenhouse gas emissions.

The authors can’t discuss in any detail what the final tome will say, but they can talk about their own research.

Based on their research in climate modelling, food security and farming methods, all of them agreed that eating and farming patterns need to change a lot if we’re to feed more people in our new and altered climate. That means raising fewer livestock and sharing the meat and milk we still eat more fairly between nations.

Right now, people in rich countries over-consume, despite the hefty climate impact of their livestock-heavy habits, says Pete Smith, a climate change and soil professor at the University of Aberdeen. “We can’t have nine or ten billion people consuming the way people do in the Western world,” he says. “But that’s not to say we don’t still have livestock in the system, we certainly do. But we can’t continue at the rate we are,” he says. “Although consumption has to come down, there are still going to be global markets.”

To supply those, choosier markets, New Zealand’s milk and meat must be not only carbon-neutral but meet other standards of human health (including responsible antibiotic use) and not polluting the environment, he says.

Our products must be very good, because they’ll be expensive. A changing climate will raise food prices across the board, but it may hit animal products worse by forcing countries to include the true environmental costs of growing food, our experts said. Still, New Zealand shouldn’t be afraid to boost its price tags.


Holding the pre-Easter IPCC meeting in Christchurch signaled global recognition of what most Kiwis know already – that, among developed nations, our greenhouse gas emissions are uniquely skewed towards farming.

Our problem is mostly cows, with their methane-laced burps and gas-producing urine, both of which New Zealand spends millions trying to solve.

But when these researchers talk about the climate costs of food growing; they’re looking much wider than reducing cow burps.

They’re discussing wholesale changes to the food system. “This is first time really that the IPCC has tackled food, as opposed to agriculture, in a big way,” says Tim Benton, who studies food security in his job as Dean of Strategic Research Initiatives at the University of Leeds. “I’m really hoping that, for the first time, people will start to pay attention to the impact our food systems have on climate and the impact climate has on our food systems.”

Globally, agriculture ranks second only to fossil fuels as a source of greenhouse gases.

Smith, from the University of Aberdeen, lists the numbers: “Direct emissions from crops and livestock are about 14 or so percent of global emissions, if you include deforestation it’s 24 percent, and if you add things like transport for moving food around and the embedded emissions in the agri-chemicals, you’re probably talking 30 per cent,” he says. “We can’t meet the Paris targets without it.”

Farming faces a circular problem. Growing food creates a lot of greenhouse gases, and greenhouse gas is threatening the world’s food-producing capability. “If we don’t tackle climate change, the impacts on the food system will be such that there’s no guarantee we could feed 11 billion people at the end of the century,” says Benton.

Even cows are not immune. “Dairy cows really do not like warmer temperatures, it decreases milk production and fertility,” says Cynthia Rosenzweig, a senior climate scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

Rosenzweig founded a project called AgMIP, which collates and improves the models researchers use to project climate change’s impact on farming, as well as farmers’ options for adapting. “We add climate models, crop and livestock production, and economists to bring in the demand side from consumers,” she says.

“When we do these rigorous multi-model projections, what we find is that in the mid- and high- latitudes, things could get better for some decades, as those regions warm. But in the lower latitudes, where primarily the developing countries are, food production is projected to decrease. When we take these results and feed them into the economic models, we find that, overall, globally, there’s a decline in production and an increase in food prices,” says Rosenzweig. “We look at the 2020s, 2050s and 2080s and it basically gets progressively worse. It just gets hotter and we get more heavy rainfalls and more droughts, all of which affect agriculture.”

AgMIP used its models to test whether adaptation methods, like planting heat- or drought-tolerant varieties, changing crops, or increasing irrigation or fertilizer could make up for lower yields from climate change in various regions of the world. The answer was usually no, even assuming farm technology keeps improving. “Mostly when you look at different regions the adaptation can compensate for some of the climate effects but not all,” says Rosenzweig. “That means we need mitigation.”

Mitigation, Rosenzweig, Smith and Benton each explained, has to include rearing less livestock, especially our burping cows. “We need to think about what we’re eating and how much. Because large-scale animal production, especially industrial animal production, has a very large carbon footprint,” says Rosenzweig.

None of them suggests everybody goes vegan, because most of us will not, they say.

“It’s just unrealistic to think that everybody is going to give up meat tomorrow,” says Rosenzweig. “So we need to realise there’s probably a pathway of healthy diets that is not no meat at all, but reduced meat consumption.”

Dairy has a lower greenhouse footprint than beef, but it remains considerably higher-emitting than producing vegetable products. Still, no-one expects a quick switch. “New Zealand has an important livestock sector and I don’t think these people are about to start growing carrots tomorrow. It’s about finding pathways to sustainable production,” says Rosenzweig.

Benton agrees. “On an existential basis, I don’t think any country needs to be particularly worried, because we’re talking about changes over a number of years,” he says. “If you look back 30 years, our agricultural industry was very different to what it is today and in 30 years’ time it will be different again.”

Major change is certainly needed, says Benton. Trade rules, subsidies and other policies serve many people too much low-nutrient food, artificially cheaply, he says. “$590 billion dollars around the world is spent on agricultural subsidies that largely support the eight major crops that make up the bulk of our food, and those crops are pretty low in nutrition – rice, maize, soya, sugar, palm oil…,” he says. “Food is easily available, it’s cheap, it’s economically rational to over-consume and throw it away. Increasingly, influential bodies like the UN are coming to the conclusion that our food system’s not working.”

The savings to health and the environment could counterbalance any cost of producing nutritious food more cleanly, says Benton. For example, he says, by 2025 the cost of treating Type 2 diabetes alone is projected to be higher than the economic value in GDP generated by producing all food. “When you consider malnutrition in all its forms through to obesity, cardiovascular disease and various cancers that come from eating the wrong sort of food, about half the world’s population are not a healthy weight,” he says. “We’ve got to the point where we have a super-abundance of food but…calories are really cheap and nutrition is not,” says Benton. “It doesn’t make any sense that the price of food doesn’t reflect the cost of growing food or the healthcare costs caused by food,” he says. “In the long-run, if your crop has an impact on, say, water, that cost needs to be somehow internalized. If food wasn’t subsidized by the environment and health systems, it would be more expensive and then people wouldn’t be able to waste so much and eat so much.”

Benton knows that rising costs will raise an inevitable question, which is, what about poor people, who are already under-nourished? That can be dealt with in other ways, he says.

“[UK] research has found that subsidizing the cost of food through unsustainability amplifies costs so much in the long-run that the correct thing to do is support the poor so they can afford to buy food, it doesn’t make sense to support food systems as a whole to support the poorest in society,” he says.

Another hope is that growing a greater diversity of crops, with less waste, will help build resilience to climate change in countries where sufficient food is hard to come by. But Rosenzweig warns of the need to go slowly, to avoid hurting food supplies. Unlike Benton, she doesn’t believe the world’s mega-food-producers are likely to go anywhere or be pushed out by artisan farmers. But, she says, the giants will get more sustainable, as will medium and small producers. Rosenzweig and Benton agree that food is going to cost more, and that people will eat less livestock products.

“For producing countries like you and Brazil that raises the question of…what you would lose from people buying less produce,” says Benton. “In the long-run, my feeling is that the economics of food production will change so that producing less is still profitable. In the long-run, the food system has to become more transparent and that should make it easier for people to say, ‘I value food that is very healthy or high animal welfare’…and it will be easier to find,” says Benton. “The digital revolution will allow you to visit a farm virtually from anywhere in the world and say ‘I like what that farmer is doing.’”


That leaves the question of what people will enjoy sufficiently to spend a small fortune on it.

Smith, from the University of Aberdeen, doesn’t accept the argument sometimes made on behalf of the United States’ feedlot industry (and supported by a few prominent U.S. agricultural scientists) that feedlot meat and dairy is preferable to pasture farming, because of its greater greenhouse efficiency. It’s true, if somewhat counter-intuitive, that products, especially meat, from cows fed grain in feedlots are typically lower in greenhouse gases.

But that’s not the whole story, says Smith. “The feedlot systems need to get their food from somewhere and about 30 per cent of all crops grown on the planet go into livestock feed,” he says. “The more feedlot systems you have, the more land you need to produce those crops. And while it’s true that the greenhouse gas per unit of product is lower for those feedlot systems, that’s as a result of forcing the animal up to slaughter weight much quicker so they’ve had less chance to emit methane. Climate change is not the only game in town, and the over-use of growth hormones and antibiotics [needed to fatten animals faster] is not accepted in many countries,” says Smith.

Annette Cowie, a principal research scientist at the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, believes that there will always be a place for livestock that can forage for food, such as grass, that people can’t eat, on land where crops can’t grow.

Ruminants like cows have this unique ability. Cowie also sees huge potential for new technologies such as biochar, which can trap emissions in the soil, though she is wary of overblowing the advances farms could make.

But, as Smith explains, New Zealand doesn’t need to eliminate cow burps to claim to be cleaner. He puts only a little store in gas-squashing technologies, like the methane-inhibiting feed supplements New Zealanders are working on, because they’ll never reduce emissions to zero. “The only way is to offset emissions by planting more trees or creating carbon sinks. In the future, you might say, ‘for this litre of milk we made this many greenhouse gases but we’ve created a forest offsetting it domestically’,” says Smith. “You’ve got a great climate, great soil for producing pasture,” he says. “It’s not perfect, at the moment you’ve got over-fertilization and other stuff, but if you can get those issues addressed…New Zealand could be putting its stuff on the international market as the most environmentally-benign dairy products there are,” he says.

Long-term, we shouldn’t be afraid to have fewer cows, producing less, says Smith. “The push toward productivity has not necessarily moved us in the right direction on other measures,” he says. “One of the big issues is, we currently don’t pay farmers enough, and we’ve come to expect very low food prices. When you’re not squeezing every last litre of milk out of the land by over-fertilizing, you can step back and accept maybe 5 percent less milk for a massive environmental benefit,” says Smith. “We, as a society, might decide to pay farmers the difference.”


Such a move would be a mighty relief to the farmers Mark Howden works in Australia, where he’s the director of the Climate Change Institute at Australian National University. In a food system that favours maximum production and reliability, climate change is already proving a major headache, he says. Some Australian farmers are doing it tough, though not in every location, says Howden. “What farmers are seeing now in terms of changes in rainfall is different depending where you are. Some farmers are having to, say, move out of wheat farming and into mixed farming with livestock that can handle the dry conditions. “Their options are shrinking and they’re feeling significantly stressed,” he says. “And what farmers are seeing now is very much in line with the projections for the future.”

Meanwhile, at supermarkets: “The demand is for very reliable foodstuffs, with no variation in quality, so the supermarkets can employ their marketing strategies,” he says. “Both of those things are challenged with the increased variability and extremes of climate that we’re already seeing and that will increase in future, so the pressure from the value chain is in the opposite direction to the pressure from climate. That increases stress on farmers,” says Howden.

One tactic that’s already been employed by a few Australian farmers is “hedging” their climate risk by buying farms in at least two different micro-climates. “They can have more than one farm in different regions, so in New Zealand maybe you’d have one in the South Island and one in the North, so it’s unlikely both will be affected in the same way and you can buffer your supply system.” Another strategy is educating consumers “about why there is variability in produce and the importance of seasonal cooking, and that just because an apple has a spot on it, doesn’t mean it’s not okay,” says Howden.

One of the biggest things that Howden recommends that farmers do to reduce stress might not come easily. It involves changing farmers’ minds, not their farming systems. Howden says his work shows it is easier to cope with changes when farmers accept that climate change is happening. “In Australia, farmers are about four times more likely than the average Australian to say they don’t believe in climate change [the figures are 32 per cent versus 7 percent]. Yet when you actually look at what farmers are doing, the vast majority are changing their practices to adjust to a changing climate. There’s a discrepancy between what they’re saying and what they’re doing, and those sorts of discrepancies actually cause stress in their own right,” says Howden. “It stops effective strategic decision-making, because if you’re thinking this is just a few bad years, you’re expecting it to get cooler and wetter again. What we find is that those who take climate change seriously have lower stress levels, because they are empowered to take action.”

When Howden talks to farmers about adapting, their approaches change over the course of a few meetings. “Often they are initially focused on the technical options, so, say, they’re still growing wheat but different varieties. But after a few discussions on climate change, where they end up is that the important thing is having much better strategic business capability and the ability to juggle trade-offs,” he says.

Rosenzweig, the impact modeler, sums up those trade-offs and farmers’ tricky conundrum. “The challenges for agriculture everywhere are to simultaneously be reducing their emissions of greenhouse gases and be adapting to a changing climate,” she says. To do it, they will need our help, and that includes changing our diets. “That’s why there’s a role for people changing what we eat. Because as we go from 6 or 7 billion people to 9 or 10 billion, how are we actually going to do that?” she says.

Born Free USA Sues Administration Over Lack of Transparency on Newly Appointed Council that Promotes Trophy Hunting

Leading nonprofit animal rights organization files complaint against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over neglected Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request regarding the recently formed International Wildlife Conservation Council (IWCC)

Washington, D.C. — Born Free USA, a global leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation leading the charge against the outdated and brutal sport of trophy hunting, today filed a complaint against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The suit, filed over a neglected Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request about the newly formed International Wildlife Conservation Council (IWCC), also argues that the council was formed under the guise of conservation with no balanced perspectives on the negative impact of international trophy hunting.

The IWCC, which was announced on November 8, 2017, was created, to “… advise the Secretary of the Interior on the benefits that international recreational hunting has on foreign wildlife and habitat conservation, anti-poaching and illegal wildlife trafficking programs, and other ways in which international hunting benefits human populations in these areas.” Born Free submitted a FOIA request seeking information related to the duties of the IWCC, the circumstances under which it was established, and under what criteria its members were to be selected. To date, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has not provided a single piece of information, ignoring a deadline imposed by the law and its own self-extended deadline.

“In creating the IWCC to advise on the ‘benefits’ of Americans going abroad to hunt, the Department of the Interior is operating under the premise that trophy hunting has significant benefits for wildlife conservation,” said Prashant Khetan, CEO and general counsel for Born Free USA. “In truth, trophy hunting does virtually nothing to aid conservation efforts. It appears this administration is set on pushing a pro-hunting agenda, apparent not just in the aims of the IWCC, but also evident in its membership. The vast majority, if not all, of the IWCC members represent pro-hunting organizations.”

The IWCC will hold its first public meeting this Friday, March 16, just days after the administration lifted trophy hunting bans put into place during President Obama’s tenure.

The FOIA submitted by Born Free was an active step towards finding out more about the IWCC’s formation and purpose. According to the complaint, “… the members of the IWCC have now been made public, which includes officers of Safari Club International and National Rifle Association. Given these entities’ close relationship with Secretary Zinke, including support during campaigns, it is perhaps not surprising that FWS [U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service] has been pushing a pro-hunting agenda, including the creation of the IWCC. It also is not surprising that FWS has chosen not to be transparent about the IWCC prior to its first public meeting.”

“We will have a representative in attendance who, with several other groups, intends to read a statement to the IWCC challenging its purpose,” Khetan said. “In addition, we reached out to our base for their comments/questions about the IWCC and, in a span of days, received over 600 responses, which we collated and submitted on their behalf – the central theme being that hunting does not constitute compassionate conservation. We believe, and have the facts to support the idea, that killing is not conservation. The species that will be most affected, including lions, elephants and white rhinos, are already in such decline that hunting them under the guise of conservation is no longer a valid excuse.”

About Born Free USA
Born Free USA, a national 501(c)(3), believes that every individual animal matters. Inspired by the Academy Award®-winning film Born Free, the organization works locally, nationally, and internationally on the conservation frontlines, in communities, classrooms, courtrooms, and the halls of Congress, to end wild animal cruelty and suffering, and protect threatened wildlife.

Launched in 2002, Born Free USA was inspired by Virginia McKenna and her (late) husband Bill Travers, who, along with their son, Will, founded The Born Free Foundation (UK) in 1984. Their experience in Kenya filming the classic 1966 Academy Award®-winning film Born Free, the story of Joy and George Adamson’s fight to successfully return Elsa the lioness to a wild and free life, launched the couple’s “compassionate conservation” movement, aimed at keeping wildlife in the wild. This movement continues to motivate millions of followers and activists across the globe. In 2007, Born Free USA merged with the Animal Protection Institute.

To support Born Free USA and make a donation, visit

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It’s Official: Fish Feel Pain

The verdict is in. But will our oceanic friends ever get the same legal protections as land animals?



Whether or not fish feel pain has been debated for years. But the balance of evidence says yes. Now the question is, what do we do about it? ( / Alamy)

When Culum Brown was a young boy, he and his grandmother frequented a park near her home in Melbourne, Australia. He was fascinated by the park’s large ornamental pond wriggling with goldfish, mosquitofish, and loaches. Brown would walk the perimeter of the pond, peering into the translucent shallows to gaze at the fish. One day, he and his grandmother arrived at the park and discovered that the pond had been drained—something the parks department apparently did every few years. Heaps of fish flapped upon the exposed bed, suffocating in the sun.

Brown raced from one trash can to another, searching through them and collecting whatever discarded containers he could find—mostly plastic soda bottles. He filled the bottles at drinking fountains and corralled several fish into each one. He pushed other stranded fish toward regions of the pond where some water remained. “I was frantic, running around like a lunatic, trying to save these animals,” recalls Brown, who is now a marine biologist at Macquarie University in Sydney. Ultimately, he managed to rescue hundreds of fish, about 60 of which he adopted. Some of them lived in his home aquariums for more than 10 years.

As a child, I too kept fish. My very first pets were two goldfish, bright as newly minted pennies, in an unornamented glass bowl the size of a cantaloupe. They died within a few weeks. I later upgraded to a 40-liter tank lined with rainbow gravel and a few plastic plants. Inside I kept various small fish: neon tetras with bands of fluorescent blue and red, guppies with bold billowing tails like solar flares, and glass catfish so diaphanous they seemed nothing more than silver-crowned spinal columns darting through the water. Most of these fish lived much longer than the goldfish, but some of them had a habit of leaping in ecstatic arcs straight through the gaps in the tank’s cover and onto the living room floor. My family and I would find them flopping behind the TV, cocooned in dust and lint.

Should we care how fish feel? In his 1789 treatise An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, English philosopher Jeremy Bentham—who developed the theory of utilitarianism (essentially, the greatest good for the greatest number of individuals)—articulated an idea that has been central to debates about animal welfare ever since. When considering our ethical obligations to other animals, Bentham wrote, the most important question is not, “Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?” Conventional wisdom has long held that fish cannot—that they do not feel pain. An exchange in a 1977 issue of Field & Stream exemplifies the typical argument. In response to a 13-year-old girl’s letter about whether fish suffer when caught, the writer and fisherman Ed Zern first accuses her of having a parent or teacher write the letter because it is so well composed. He then explains that “fish don’t feel pain the way you do when you skin your knee or stub your toe or have a toothache, because their nervous systems are much simpler. I’m not really sure they feel anypain, as we feel pain, but probably they feel a kind of ‘fish pain.’” Ultimately, whatever primitive suffering they endure is irrelevant, he continues, because it’s all part of the great food chain and, besides, “if something or somebody ever stops us from fishing, we’ll suffer terribly.”

Such logic is still prevalent today. In 2014, BBC Newsnight invited Penn State University biologist Victoria Braithwaite to discuss fish pain and welfare with Bertie Armstrong, head of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation. Armstrong dismissed the notion that fish deserve welfare laws as “cranky” and insisted that “the balance of scientific evidence is that fish do not feel pain as we do.”



Despite the evidence that fish can suffer, animal welfare legislations and other legal protections often exclude them. (wonderlandstock / Alamy)

That’s not quite true, Braithwaite says. It is impossible to definitively know whether another creature’s subjective experience is like our own. But that is beside the point. We do not know whether cats, dogs, lab animals, chickens, and cattle feel pain the way we do, yet we still afford them increasingly humane treatment and legal protections because they have demonstrated an ability to suffer. In the past 15 years, Braithwaite and other fish biologists around the world have produced substantial evidence that, just like mammals and birds, fish also experience conscious pain. “More and more people are willing to accept the facts,” Braithwaite says. “Fish do feel pain. It’s likely different from what humans feel, but it is still a kind of pain.”

At the anatomical level, fish have neurons known as nociceptors, which detect potential harm, such as high temperatures, intense pressure, and caustic chemicals. Fish produce the same opioids—the body’s innate painkillers—that mammals do. And their brain activity during injury is analogous to that in terrestrial vertebrates: sticking a pin into goldfish or rainbow trout, just behind their gills, stimulates nociceptors and a cascade of electrical activity that surges toward brain regions essential for conscious sensory perceptions (such as the cerebellum, tectum, and telencephalon), not just the hindbrain and brainstem, which are responsible for reflexes and impulses.

Fish also behave in ways that indicate they consciously experience pain. In one study, researchers dropped clusters of brightly colored Lego blocks into tanks containing rainbow trout. Trout typically avoid an unfamiliar object suddenly introduced to their environment in case it’s dangerous. But when scientists gave the rainbow trout a painful injection of acetic acid, they were much less likely to exhibit these defensive behaviors, presumably because they were distracted by their own suffering. In contrast, fish injected with both acid and morphine maintained their usual caution. Like all analgesics, morphine dulls the experience of pain, but does nothing to remove the source of pain itself, suggesting that the fish’s behavior reflected their mental state, not mere physiology. If the fish were reflexively responding to the presence of caustic acid, as opposed to consciously experiencing pain, then the morphine should not have made a difference.

In another study, rainbow trout that received injections of acetic acid in their lips began to breathe more quickly, rocked back and forth on the bottom of the tank, rubbed their lips against the gravel and the side of the tank, and took more than twice as long to resume feeding as fish injected with benign saline. Fish injected with both acid and morphine also showed some of these unusual behaviors, but to a much lesser extent, whereas fish injected with saline never behaved oddly.



Testing for pain in fish is challenging, so researchers often look for unusual behavior and physiological responses. In one study, rainbow trout given injections of acetic acid in their lips responded by rubbing their lips on the sides and bottom of their tank and delaying feeding. (arc F. Henning / Alamy)

Several years ago, Lynne Sneddon, a University of Liverpool biologist and one of the world’s foremost experts on fish pain, began conducting a set of particularly intriguing experiments; so far, only some of the results have been published. In one test, she gave zebrafish the choice between two aquariums: one completely barren, the other containing gravel, a plant, and a view of other fish. They consistently preferred to spend time in the livelier, decorated chamber. When some fish were injected with acid, however, and the bleak aquarium was flooded with pain-numbing lidocaine, they switched their preference, abandoning the enriched tank. Sneddon repeated this study with one change: rather than suffusing the boring aquarium with painkiller, she injected it straight into the fish’s bodies, so they could take it with them wherever they swam. The fish remained among the gravel and greenery.

The collective evidence is now robust enough that biologists and veterinarians increasingly accept fish pain as a reality. “It’s changed so much,” Sneddon says, reflecting on her experiences speaking to both scientists and the general public. “Back in 2003, when I gave talks, I would ask, ‘Who believes fish can feel pain?’ Just one or two hands would go up. Now you ask the room and pretty much everyone puts their hands up.” In 2013, the American Veterinary Medical Association published new guidelines for the euthanasia of animals, which included the following statements: “Suggestions that finfish responses to pain merely represent simple reflexes have been refuted. … the preponderance of accumulated evidence supports the position that finfish should be accorded the same considerations as terrestrial vertebrates in regard to relief from pain.”

Yet this scientific consensus has not permeated public perception. Google “do fish feel pain” and you plunge yourself into a morass of conflicting messages. They don’t, says one headline. They do, says another. Other sources claim there’s a convoluted debate raging between scientists. In truth, that level of ambiguity and disagreement no longer exists in the scientific community. In 2016, University of Queensland professor Brian Key published an article titled “Why fish do not feel pain” in Animal Sentience: An Interdisciplinary Journal on Animal Feeling. So far, Key’s article has provoked more than 40 responses from scientists around the world, almost all of whom reject his conclusions.

Key is one of the most vociferous critics of the idea that fish can consciously suffer; the other is James D. Rose, a professor emeritus of zoology at the University of Wyoming and an avid fisherman who has written for the pro-angling publication Angling Matters. The thrust of their argument is that the studies ostensibly demonstrating pain in fish are poorly designed and, more fundamentally, that fish lack brains complex enough to generate a subjective experience of pain. In particular, they stress that fish do not have the kind of large, dense, undulating cerebral cortices that humans, primates, and certain other mammals possess. The cortex, which envelops the rest of the brain like bark, is thought to be crucial for sensory perceptions and consciousness.

Some of the critiques published by Key and Rose are valid, particularly on the subject of methodological flaws. A few studies in the growing literature on fish pain do not properly distinguish between a reflexive response to injury and a probable experience of pain, and some researchers have overstated the significance of these flawed efforts. At this point, however, such studies are in the minority. Many experiments have confirmed the early work of Braithwaite and Sneddon.

Moreover, the notion that fish do not have the cerebral complexity to feel pain is decidedly antiquated. Scientists agree that most, if not all, vertebrates (as well as some invertebrates) are conscious and that a cerebral cortex as swollen as our own is not a prerequisite for a subjective experience of the world. The planet contains a multitude of brains, dense and spongy, globular and elongated, as small as poppy seeds and as large as watermelons; different animal lineages have independently conjured similar mental abilities from very different neural machines. A mind does not have to be human to suffer.


Fishermen Michael and Patrick Burns

Fishermen Michael and Patrick Burns practice humane fishing techniques on their vessel, Blue North. (Photo by Kevin J. Suver/Blue North)

Despite the evidence of conscious suffering in fish, they are not typically afforded the kind of legal protections given to farm animals, lab animals, and pets in many countries around the world. The United Kingdom has some of the most progressive animal welfare legislation, which typically covers all nonhuman vertebrates. In Canada and Australia, animal welfare laws are more piecemeal, varying from one state or province to another; some protect fish, some don’t. Japan’s relevant legislation largely neglects fish. China has very few substantive animal welfare laws of any kind. And in the United States, the Animal Welfare Act protects most warm-blooded animals used in research and sold as pets, but excludes fish, amphibians, and reptiles. Yet the sheer number of fish killed for food and bred for pet stores dwarfs the corresponding numbers of mammals, birds, and reptiles. Annually, about 70 billion land animals are killed for food around the world. That number includes chickens, other poultry, and all forms of livestock. In contrast, an estimated 10 to 100 billion farmed fish are killed globally every year, and about another one to three trillion fish are caught from the wild. The number of fish killed each year far exceeds the number of people who have ever existed on Earth.

“We have largely thought of fish as very alien and very simple, so we didn’t really care how we killed them,” Braithwaite says. “If we look at trawl netting, that’s a pretty gruesome way for fish to die: the barometric trauma of getting ripped from the ocean into open air, and then slowly suffocating. Can we do that more humanely? Yes. Should we? Probably, yes. We’re mostly not doing it at the moment because it’s more expensive to kill fish humanely, especially in the wild.”


In some countries, such as the United Kingdom and Norway, fish farms have largely adopted humane slaughter methods. Instead of suffocating fish in air—the easiest and historically the most common practice—or freezing them to death in ice water, or poisoning them with carbon dioxide, they render fish unconscious with either a quick blow to the head or strong electrical currents, then pierce their brains or bleed them out. In Norway, Hanne Digre and her colleagues at the research organization SINTEF have brought these techniques onto commercial fishing vessels on a trial basis to investigate whether humane slaughter is feasible out at sea.

In a series of experiments, Digre and her colleagues tested different open-sea slaughter methods on a variety of species. They found that cod and haddock stored in dry bins on ships after harvest remained conscious for at least two hours. An electric shock delivered immediately after bringing fish onto a ship could knock them unconscious, but only if the current was strong enough. If the electric shock was too weak, the fish were merely immobilized. Some species, such as saithe, tended to break their spines and bleed internally when shocked; others, such as cod, struggled much less. Some fish regained consciousness about 10 minutes after being stunned, so the researchers recommend cutting their throats within 30 seconds of an electric shock.

In the United States, two brothers are pioneering a new kind of humane fishing. In fall of 2016, Michael and Patrick Burns, both longtime fishermen and cattle ranchers, launched a unique fishing vessel named Blue North. The 58-meter boat, which can carry about 750 tonnes and a crew of 26, specializes in harvesting Pacific cod from the Bering Sea. The crew works within a temperature-controlled room in the middle of the boat, which houses a moon pool—a hole through which they haul up fish one at a time. This sanctuary protects the crew from the elements and gives them much more control over the act of fishing than they would have on an ordinary vessel. Within seconds of bringing a fish to the surface, the crew moves it to a stun table that renders the animal unconscious with about 10 volts of direct current. The fish are then bled.

The Burns brothers were initially inspired by groundbreaking research on humane slaughter facilities for livestock conducted by Colorado State University animal science professor and internationally renowned autism spokesperson Temple Grandin. By considering the perspectives of the animals themselves, Grandin’s innovative designs greatly reduced stress, panic, and injury in cattle being herded toward an abattoir, while simultaneously making the whole process more efficient for ranchers. “One day it occurred to me, why couldn’t we take some of those principles and apply them to the fishing industry? Michael recalls. Inspired by moon pools on Norwegian fishing vessels, and the use of electrical stunning in various forms of animal husbandry, they designed Blue North. Michael thinks his new ship is one of perhaps two vessels in the world to consistently use electrical stunning on wild-caught fish. “We believe that fish are sentient beings, that they do experience panic and stress,” he says. “We have come up with a method to stop that.”

Right now, the Burns brothers export the cod they catch to Japan, China, France, Spain, Denmark, and Norway. The fact that the fish are humanely harvested has not been a big draw for their main buyers, Michael says, but he expects that will change. He and his team have been speaking with various animal welfare organizations to develop new standards and certifications for humanely caught wild fish. “It will become more common,” Michael says. “A lot of people out there are concerned with where their food comes from and how it’s handled.”

Meanwhile, the vast majority of the trillions of fish slaughtered annually are killed in ways that likely cause them immense pain. The truth is that even the adoption of humane slaughter methods in more progressive countries has not been entirely or even primarily motivated by ethics. Rather, such changes are driven by profit. Studies have shown that reducing stress in farmed and caught fish, killing them swiftly and efficiently with minimal struggle, improves the quality of the meat that eventually makes it to market. The flesh of fish killed humanely is often smoother and less blemished. When we treat fish well, we don’t really do it for their sake; we do it for ours.


“I’ve always had a natural empathy for animals and had no reason to exclude fish,” Brown says. “At that park [in Melbourne], they didn’t have any concern that there were fish in there and they might need some water. There was no attempt to save them or house them whatsoever. I was shocked by that at that age, and I still see that kind of callous disregard for fish in people today in all sorts of contexts. In all the time since we discovered the first evidence for pain in fish, I don’t think public perception has moved an ounce.”

Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time at my local pet stores, watching the fish. They move restlessly, noiselessly—leglessly pacing from one side of their tanks to another. Some hang in the water, heads tilted up, as though caught on an invisible line. A glint of scales draws my attention; an unexpected swatch of color. I try to look one in the eye—a depthless disc of obsidian. Its mouth moves so mechanically, like a sliding door stuck in a loop. I look at these fish, I enjoy looking at them, I do not wish them any harm; yet I almost never wonder what they are thinking or feeling. Fish are our direct evolutionary ancestors. They are the original vertebrates, the scaly, stubby-limbed pioneers who crawled still wet from the sea and colonized the land. So many gulfs separate us now: geographical, anatomical, psychological. We can understand, rationally, the overwhelming evidence for fish sentience. But the facts are not enough. Genuinely pitying a fish seems to require an Olympian feat of empathy.

Perhaps, though, our typical interactions with fish—the placid pet in a glass puddle, or the garnished filet on a plate—are too circumscribed to reveal a capacity for suffering. I recently learned of a culinary tradition, still practiced today, known as ikizukuri: eating the raw flesh of a living fish. You can find videos online. In one, a chef covers a fish’s face with a cloth and holds it down as he shaves off its scales with something like a crude cheese grater. He begins to slice the fish lengthwise with a large knife, but the creature leaps violently from his grasp and somersaults into a nearby sink. The chef reclaims the fish and continues slicing away both its flanks. Blood as dark as pomegranate juice spills out. He immerses the fish in a bowl of ice water as he prepares the sashimi. The whole fish will be served on a plate with shaved daikon and shiso leaves, rectangular chunks of its flesh piled neatly in its hollowed side, its mouth and gills still flapping, and the occasional shudder rippling across the length of its body.

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The Humane Society of the United States accepts the resignation of Wayne Pacelle as president and CEO

The Humane Society of the United States announced that it has accepted the resignation of Wayne Pacelle, as president and CEO, effective immediately.  Wayne has served in this capacity since 2004, and previously served for 10 years as the organization chief political and communications operative.

The HSUS has named Kitty Block as acting president and CEO. Ms. Block, an attorney, is currently president of Humane Society International, The HSUS’s global affiliate.

“The last few days have been very hard for our entire family of staff and supporters,” said Rick Bernthal, Chairman of the Board of The HSUS.  “We are profoundly grateful for Wayne’s unparalleled level of accomplishments and service to the cause of animal protection and welfare.”

“We are most grateful to Kitty for stepping forward to lead the organization as we continue to advance our mission, which has never been more important,” added Bernthal.

Ms. Block has served at The HSUS since 1992, first as a legal investigator to the investigations department, then to oversee international policy work related to international trade and treaties. In 2007, she was promoted to Vice President of Humane Society International, later to Senior Vice President, and last year became President of this affiliate overseeing all HSI international campaigns and programs. Ms. Block received a law degree from The George Washington University in 1990 and a bachelor’s degree in communications and philosophy from the University of New Hampshire in 1986.

Additionally, The HSUS announced the resignation of Board member Erika Brunson.

CEO Of The Humane Society Resigns Amid Allegations of Sexual Harassment

Wayne Pacelle, former CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, at a 2015 news conference. Pacelle resigned Friday.

Jonathan Bachman/AP Images for The Humane Society of the United States

The president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, Wayne Pacelle, has resigned effective immediately, the nonprofit group announced Friday.

Pacelle had been at the center of a controversy over allegations that he had sexually harassed three female subordinates at the Humane Society, one of the country’s largest animal charities.

The move came a day after the group’s board of directors had voted to keep Pacelle despite the allegations dating to 2005.

In a statement, Humane Society Board Chair Rick Bernthal said:

“The last few days have been very hard for our entire family of staff and supporters. We are profoundly grateful for Wayne’s unparalleled level of accomplishments and service to the cause of animal protection and welfare.”

Bernthal said that the president of the Humane Society’s international affiliate, Kitty Block, has been named as acting chief executive.

The development came just hours after Bernthal had defended the group’s decision yesterday to allow Pacelle to remain as CEO. In a statement, Bernthal said that after an investigation:

“The board reviewed the information assembled and determined that there was not sufficient evidence to remove Wayne Pacelle from his position as CEO.

“Many of the allegations were explosive in nature, and reading or hearing about them is a shock to anyone. It was to us, too. But when we sifted through the evidence presented, we did not find that many of these allegations were supported by credible evidence.”

Bernthal also denied that his group had offered settlements to three other workers who said they were dismissed or demoted after raising concerns about Pacelle’s alleged sexual misconduct. “The Board concluded that there was no motivation behind severance agreements to silence women who had spoken up or raised concerns,” he said.

After the board voted to retain Pacelle, the CEO acknowledged that the controversy was taking a toll.

Pacelle had told the New York Times earlier on Friday that he was assessing his future professional life:

“‘I’m going to take stock of everyone’s opinion and assess where I go and where the organization goes from here,’ he said. ‘I think leadership changes at organizations are often very healthy and renewing, and I’m going to talk with staff and board members and find the best course that [contributes] to our mission of fighting for all animals.’ ”

Yet pressure was building for Pacelle’s dismissal from both inside and out the organization, with major donors announcing that they were withdrawing their support from the group.

In a statement earlier Friday, the president of the National Organization for Women, Toni Van Pelt, had called for Pacelle’s firing:

“Like Donald Trump, the Humane Society is engaged in a cover up in plain sight. Instead of trying to enable a sexual abuser, they should dismiss him. Instead of making excuses, they should be making reparations. Instead of silencing or attacking women who’ve suffered abuse, and those who defend them, the Humane Society should change its own culture.

“The Humane Society needs to know this. Women are watching. We know when a charity deserves our support, and when it fails the most basic obligations of trust.

“The Humane Society has no humanity. Fire Wayne Pacelle. Do it now.”

The initial decision to retain Pacelle also had led to the resignation of seven protesting board members.