The 2017 election was called in such a panic that most of the usual ways of contacting voters were impossible, so it boiled down to a leaflet and email responses to questions. The most important subject for the electorate, one that came up in the emails over and over again, was animal cruelty.
It doesn’t seem to matter how the cruelty is occasioned, hunting, any and all forms of slaughter, routine welfare neglect, etc, the people of West Suffolk are against it and want it stopped. I firmly believe that this is a matter on which individuals are prepared to break away from the ‘my old dad voted for the XXX Party, and so do I’ mindset that is so frustrating to a new party like us. One woman was so taken by my reply to her queries about fox-hunting, badger culling and routine slaughter that she offered to canvas for me (I was reluctantly compelled to be honest and tell her I was UKIP, not Labour as she had assumed from my compassionate and reasonable responses).
More important than collapsing roads, the impending crisis in the care system, more important than the slow-motion train wreck that is the NHS, much much more important than Brexit which was hardly mentioned, our policy on the humane treatment of animals is one of the touchstones by which our residents judge us.
I am moved to support a ban on non-stun slaughter not because it is a vote catcher, although it is. I support the ban because it is the right, humane and decent thing to do.
Let’s imagine a world in which the UK has a reputation for animal welfare that is second to none, where the label ‘humanely slaughtered in the UK to the highest standards in the world’ means that meat-eaters can be assured that the food on their plate has had a decent life and has died without pain and fear. It would be a marketer’s dream, and, even better, it would match the ideals of a younger generation uneasy with those who prefer convenience over compassion. If the UK farming industry can’t take advantage of that then it will take a pasting from whichever country decides that that is the future.
Our first policy should be to take control of the subject by proposing a rigorous research programme to reduce the stress of slaughter. I have a preferred method: I’ve been hypoxic and it is easily demonstrated to the most sceptical of critics that a living breathing animal can be rapidly rendered unconscious by oxygen starvation and then killed in a controlled and humane way.
Other approaches could start by considering the work of Hameroff and Penrose into the mechanism of consciousness and new techniques of switching off the mind within the brain. If UKIP gains a reputation for compassion in animal welfare it will be a pleasant change to sit on the moral high ground which even the most biased commentators could not twist. If the UK does the same then we should be able to profit from it: there are a lot of compassionate people in the world.
A more SF solution, which we must also research, is meat without animals – that is coming as cells have already been grown individually and then re-assembled into a simulation of nature. I’m not sure that it is yet ready for market, but it will be, and the farming industry should start planning for that eventuality.
I put no weight on the argument about Jewish religious slaughter needing an exemption. Vegetarianism is not prohibited. Besides, when necessary that religion has a reputation for being able to adapt. It is, I believe, permissible to eat non-kosher food when it is offered as a hospitable gesture. Furthermore, Judaism, at least the Reform branch, thinks ahead. At my granddaughter’s bat mitzvah the rabbi talked about the use of pig hearts in transplants. The pig is unclean, but the benefits of an unlimited supply of organs for transplants must surely over-ride out-dated religious convention. The rabbi had a practical solution:
“You can use pig organs for transplants, but you mustn’t lick your fingers afterwards.”
That’s the way to tackle the future: with kindness, humour and common sense. Or, put another way, by being a decent human.