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News, Blogs & Press Releases » For Every Kind: Progress for animal rights?

For Every Kind: Progress for animal rights?

Our Chief Executive, Richard McIlwain, looks at the RSPCA’s ‘For Every Kind’ campaign, and how it seems to be a step in the right direction for animal rights despite its obvious tensions.

The RSPCA have been in the news recently with the launch of their new campaign ‘For Every Kind’, which in its own words proclaims the need to ‘radically rethink our relationship with all animals’.

This naturally got my attention, particularly as the Vegetarian Society stands proudly for all lives – animal and human. The need to rethink our relationship with animals – and the way in which we compartmentalise our sentiments, depending on whether they are farmed animals, companion animals or native wildlife – is a subject I have spoken on many times.

The RSPCA’s Chief Executive Chris Sherwood outlined the campaign in an opinion piece for the Observer over the weekend, in which he stated that ‘the RSPCA campaigns for people to eat fewer animal products and when they do, to choose higher welfare’.

Indeed, they do, as the RSPCA sits alongside us in the Eating Better Alliance which aims for a 50% reduction in meat consumption by 2030 (after which our aims diverge; clearly, beyond 2030, the Vegetarian Society wants to see an end to all meat consumption).

Of course, the new campaign provoked fury from the usual media segments with claims that the RSPCA had ‘gone woke’. It’s sad really that the idea of extending kindness to the animals with which we share the planet creates such derision in some circles. I’m therefore very pleased to offer our support to the RSPCA and their new campaign. Indeed, we share similar histories, with both our organisations arising from the social reform movements of the early 19th century, and driven by key individuals with a desire to extend rights and freedom to animals.

But there is an obvious tension at the heart of the RSPCA’s campaign. In their press release launching the campaign, Sherwood stated: ‘We need to realise that all animals have feelings and emotions, many can feel joy, anger, fear and more, and whether they are pets, wildlife, on farms or in labs, they deserve to have a fulfilled life of their own’. I couldn’t agree more. But it’s difficult to reconcile this sentiment with the idea of animals kept in laboratories. And, irrespective of welfare standards, the end result for farmed animals is the same – a trip to the abattoir and a brutal death, no matter how much you dress it up.

Yet alternatives exist. Already a small number of slaughter-free farms are operating successfully, such as Ahimsa here in the UK and in the US. Slaughter-free egg producers are also present around the UK. These often look after rescued battery hens, but other schemes also operate such as Laura’s Layers in Tyne and Wear.

Exploring how these types of operations might scale successfully, within the constraints of the current issues of global heating and biodiversity loss, might overcome the obvious tension at the heart of the RSPCA’s campaign. Living ‘a fulfilled life’ is simply not enough if that life is artificially shortened and then ends with a road trip and the horrors of the abattoir.

That said, the RSPCA’s campaign offers a step in the right direction, and it’s great to see a mainstream organisation step up and champion the rights of all animals. Public attitudes are changing, we’re eating more plant-based foods, and while some people may take the issue with the RSPCA’s stance, I do believe it’s to be broadly welcomed.  Maybe, one day, we can encourage them to go even further.

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