Comments on draft animal policy

Comments on draft animal policy

Greg McFarlane wants to phase out the use of animals in agriculture. He gives various reasons for this, including environmental impacts and the health effects of consuming animal products. I can agree that there are environmental reasons for cutting back on the amount of land, water and other resources devoted to animal agriculture, though not necessarily abolishing it altogether. I don't feel qualified to comment on the relative merits of vegan and non-vegan diets for human health. But Greg's main concern seems to be animal welfare. He says: "Animals suffer when used as resources, both during their life and their death". Although not stated explicitly, there is an implicit contrast between life for a farm animal (with suffering) and life for an animal in a natural environment (presumably without suffering). But in reality things are not that simple. Animals also suffer in their natural environment. Some animals are eaten by other animals. Animals may suffer shortage of food or water due to droughts, etc. They may be hurt in fights with other members of the same species. Hence it is not necessarily the case that animals on farms suffer worse than animals in the wild. It depends on the details of how they are treated. It is unrealistic to think we can completely abolish animal suffering. In my opinion we should try to minimise animal suffering as much as reasonably practical, while giving human needs priority. For example, minimum space requirements should be established for animals kept in enclosed environments. The standards should be based on scientific study of the relationship between population density and stress. Greg wants to "abolish the property status of animals in law". I think it would be better to focus on getting stricter standards for the treatment of animals by their owners.

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