I can think of few issues that seem to me as clear cut as animal welfare. It seems to me like the fair treatment of animals — as pets, wildlife or farming animals — should be no controversial thing.
Sadly, I think we all know that this isn’t the state of reality. It is, therefore, reassuring to know that we have organisations like the RSPCA to defend animal rights and prosecute abusers — and a man as passionate and committed as Gavin Grant to lead it.
Last night I attended a “Beer and Curry Night” hosted by the RSPCA (and funded by an anonymous sponsor). There I and other attendees got to tuck in to a delicious curry (chicken, not cat!) Whilst listening to Mr Grant, Mary Creagh (shadow secretary for the environment and rural affairs) and Richard Howitt (MEP for the east of England).
Gavin Grant was brilliant. Utterly unapologetic in his passion for animal welfare and profoundly thankful to Labour for the last government’s progress on the matter — not least of which the fox hunting ban, something which we should all be proud of. He also told some interesting takes, such as that the RSPCA was formed in 1824 on the second attempt, with thanks to William Wilberforce — making it an older law enforcement body than the police.
He also told is that the RSPCA’s prosecution success rate is 98%, compared to the CPS’s 3 in 4.
Mary Creagh focused more on the upcoming badger cull, a path that the government is pursuing
against scientific and economic common sense. The cull, she said, will increase the spread of TB because it will displace badgers and cause them to move around, infecting more cattle.
She also highlighted the existence of a badger TB vaccine, trials of which were canceled by the coalition when it came to power. By vaccinating badgers, we could tackle the problem of bovine TB more cheaply and effectively than a needless and dangerous slaughter.
Personally, I think that the fewer people we have wandering the countryside at night with guns, the better.
Finally, Richard Howitt spoke about the work the EU Parliament has done on animal rights, particularly in terms of battery hens. When MEPs are often out if the limelight and the good work they do unnoticed, with the media dominated by national or local politicians, it’s immensely encouraging and inspiring to see a man like Richard who is as tireless working for his huge constituency as the best MPs are working for the people of their own much smaller ones.
It was an excellent night, and a real eye opener. The next time you see an advert seeking donations to the RSPCA, please pay attention and seriously consider donating. These are dedicated and committed people who do a lot of very good work, and we should be proud that we live in a country with such a strong tradition of animal welfare that for nearly two hundred years they have been fighting for that welfare — and proud of the last Labour government which did so much for the cause.