Animal Welfare

Monday, November 22nd, 2010, 03:33 WIB
Animal Welfare
Name of Book :  Animal Welfare

Author :  Colin Spedding

Publisher :  London, UK, Earthscan Publications Ltd, 2000

Pages :  208


Introduction part of this book was begun by a statement quoted from Van Wi Fen ‘Our civilization is largely defined by the way living beings are respected and how we deal with them’. Likewise, at the end of this part, Spedding drew two interesting summaries i.e. that: first, the main issue in animal welfare is to avoid inflicting suffering and, where it cannot be wholly avoided, to minimize it. Second, citizens have both rights and responsibilities, including a concern for the welfare of animals affected by them and the society to which they belong.


This book is a good guide to the uninformed as well as to those who have knowledge of the issues but still lack of conviction. It tries to answer the questions such as how we define animal welfare; what is the actual scale of the animal welfare problem; where does responsibility begin; what positive steps are actually being taken to alleviate animal suffering; can a rational and compelling argument be given for the importance of animal welfare?


Animal Welfare contains ten chapters, two appendixes, references, bibliography and index. In Chapter 2, Speeding argued that it is hard to make any progress - even in discussion - if we all interpret different things by the same words. It would be a laudable objective for community to have an agreed definition, but that would not prevent individuals disagreeing with it and trying to persuade others of their point of view. Even so, an agreed definition - or one accepted by society – acts as a focus for debate and a form of words that can be the target for improvement. After all, attitudes to animals, their welfare and the importance of fostering it, have all changed over time and still vary greatly from one country and region to another. In the UK, for example, attitudes to bear-baiting, cock-fighting, dog-fighting and badger-baiting have changed markedly over the years, as have views on the ways in which working horses, pets and farm animals should be treated.


Chapter 3 discusses the question of which animals should be included in our concerns for welfare, in our own and in other countries. For, as with the treatment of people, concern cannot simply be confined to one’s own village, town or nation. It is wise to be clear about exactly why we should be concerned anyway and the extent to which this should be related to the nature and scale of the problem which is described in Chapter 4. For example, there are more chickens than cows, more wildlife (of some species) killed on the roads than in hunting, more marine fish killed than freshwater fish and so on. Does this affect how concerned we should be? In some important respects, things must be different for different species. For example, if a hen suffers because it is deprived of a nest box in which to lay its eggs, this cannot be true of a bullock or a ewe. Furthermore, according to Spedding, it is therefore necessary to lay down standards for the ways that different animals are kept, in general terms but also, it turns out, in very great detail. The need for such standards is discussed in Chapter 5. This requires a great deal of information, from scientific investigation and from practical experience, because standards have to be based on evidence. Some people will argue that it is perfectly obvious when an animal is suffering and, in some cases, this is obviously true. Not always, however. For instance, grazing animals, such as cattle and sheep, have evolved not to show pain, in order not to reveal weakness to a watching predator. Television regularly illustrates spectacular examples of antelope leaping about in an exaggerated manner as if to say to a predator ‘don’t bother with me, I’m exceptionally fit and therefore difficult to catch’. So it does not follow that because we observe no sign of pain that the animal is not suffering. Humans also vary in the degree of pain they can tolerate and the extent to which they show it.


Where wild animals are concerned, we cannot sensibly interfere in their lives: predators must live as well as prey. But if we do interfere, we acquire responsibilities for welfare. If we exhibit dolphins in a pool, we have interfered, often in ways that we do not understand or even know about. This is also an example where of us would need no evidence to support our instinct that, for example, too small a pool is being used. Where it is right that standards should be set, how can they be enforced? Who is going to act? Who is already doing what about it? These are the questions posed in Chapter 6.


Since there is much that needs to be done, Chapters 7 and 8 discuss how improvements in animal welfare can be best achieved and by whom. Many people are not sure what they could do or, indeed, what needs to be done, but, in any case, feel that they can make very little difference by themselves. This is by no means always true: all those who consume animal products could refuse to buy those that have involved cruelty or poor welfare, and those who pay to go to animal circuses or watch dancing bears, for example, could stop doing so.


Chapter 9 discusses that if every citizen has a responsibility as an individual, how can this be discharged? Is the current scene satisfactory? Are there enough well-supported organizations in the field? Is there actually a need for further action? If so, exactly what further action is needed? But the future may hold new welfare problems and, in some cases, it may be possible to avoid them by controlling the developments that cause them. Chapter 9 discusses what these developments are likely to be. Finally, in Chapter 10, Spedding has summarized conclusions. He has reached whilst preparing this book that he did not necessarily start with, but which have confirmed my instinct that the welfare of all the different kinds of animals should be treated as one subject. Some conclusions, however, can be reached very quickly. The moral for concern and the principles of animal welfare should be the same for all countries and all people, but they may not be equally accepted, recognized or acted upon.


Thus, this is a thoughtful book, well-informed, carefully constructed and erudite. By this book, Spedding hopes that it will help them by increasing public awareness of both the problems and their efforts to solve them.


Summary by Cut Mita