With the news today full of the latest scientific breakthrough in medical human cloning, I felt it a timely moment to touch on how so-called biotechnologies are offering new threats to farm animal welfare.
As important as our victories are in banning veal crates, sow stalls and barren battery cages, and with so much more left to be done generally to improve the lives of farmed animals and their transportation and slaughter, we have yet to face one of our greatest challenges.
In some respects, this imminent threat is not unlike those we have already successfully tackled.
Governments and farming interests persist in failing to address the fundamental problem of using animals intensively to produce food. Instead, they focus on the self-imposed problems they cause. Compassion must challenge simultaneously not only the institution of factory farming but also the attempts made by its defendants to ‘manage’ the animals’ suffering. These measures, as welcome as they are, only go so far and not far enough.
The fundamental problem of using animals intensively to produce food does not go away just because some cages and crates can no longer be used. It has also got to be said that hard-fought victories like these would not have happened if we had not demanded them. History shows us that we cannot wait for governments and farming interests to always act compassionately toward the animals in their care. Or, indeed, in developing agricultural systems that produce humane, healthy and sustainable food for people.
This is the context in which I view our next major challenge – genetic engineering.