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The CASJ has identified another critical yet overlooked void in UK animal protection policy: there is no system of comprehensive welfare surveillance for the billion or so animals per year in the UK who are adversely affected by human activity. This is perturbing because such a system is essential to set out basic social and policy goals by identifying the magnitude of problems, tracking progress and prioritising actions.
Such auditing systems are also critical to check that legislation is being enforced adequately. Most fundamentally, the absence of comprehensive welfare surveillance means that the government is failing in its ‘guardianship duties on behalf of society’, according to an expert government committee.1
Nevertheless, the UK government and animal harm industries routinely claim that the country has high animal welfare standards, if not the highest in the world, despite the lack of data necessary to substantiate such a claim. In fact, our analysis of the implementation of animal research and farm animal welfare regulations reveals how government and industry work to together to avoid complying with animal protection rules. Claims of stringent animal welfare regulations are, in reality, part of a narrative of false reassurances designed to neutralise public pressure for better protection.
Here at the CASJ, we’ve been researching the role of measurement and targets to advance animal welfare. We’ve found that the principle ‘what’s measured is what matters’ is a good guide to government conduct: any issue that the state takes seriously - from child poverty through to employment levels and greenhouse gas emissions - is measured, targets are set, and progress towards those goals is monitored.
The refusal to set any such targets for animal welfare is indicative of entrenched government indifference. It is also telling that animal welfare is not considered directly in the government’s official Impact Assessments of new policies, even when the proposed measure, such as the badger cull, directly affects animal welfare. This blanket refusal to account for animal welfare is another way of denying animal interests any representation within our political system, resulting in levels of harm far exceeding what citizens would tolerate.
What the CASJ is doing