Animal Rights Stuff

Posted at 15:40pm on 8th November 2008

This surely has to be the stuff of comedy? I mean I know we, in Britain, are a nation of animal lovers, but do we need a whacking great document telling us how we should look after them, with a threat of a £20,000 fine if we stray from the guidelines? What are these people at Whitehall thinking about? And why are we paying them to do it?

I have loved all my pets and wept at their demise. There was the thrill of finding kittens born in my bed when I was a schoolgirl. Would Hilary Benn’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) have found such a bizarre occurrence an infringement of basic animal rights? And the sheer delight of discovering that Bruce, our retarded Alsatian puppy, thought himself a wet nurse, taking it upon himself to carry the kittens around in his mouth and to wean them, whilst Beauty preened herself, aloof from all the fuss. I hardly dare ask! Might we have been guilty of causing the dog an identity crisis and been hauled before those intent in eradicating the prevention of cruelty to animals?


And what about the question, should wild animals be kept as pets? I dread to think of the fines or imprisonment my family might have suffered in this respect. Deprived of his role as Nanny when the cat eventually died, Bruce opened up a bird sanctuary in our home, rescuing our oily feathered friends from the sea, or those with broken wings, and depositing them gently at my father’s feet. Once washed and splinted, the dog became Matron, tucking them into their straw-lined box-bed, and generally overseeing their care. When required, naturally the armpit of his front leg was the best intensive-care unit ever, providing exactly the right level of warmth and comfort to nurse his patients back to full health. And they loved him for it. Even his duty as keeper of the front door was secondary to this. Bruce ensured that he rose carefully so as not to disturb his patient, before charging off to the hall to alert us, noisily, to the possibility of intruders.


Bruce was not the best behaved dog I have met. We acquired him only because he was too boisterous for his previous owner. My father did a pretty good job on him with a rolled up newspaper whacked smartly across his nose, but it was never enough to stop him falling from the bow of our boat whilst barking at the swans on the estuary, nor to stop him from throwing a tantrum on bonfire night – or indeed any occasion when there was a load noise. Should we have provided him with a life-jacket? Will DEFRA, in future, provide doggy earplugs – or indeed ban fireworks in their concern for animal welfare?


But the stupidity of this latest in a long line of stupid legislation has its serious side. Are we to deprive the elderly from the comfort of owning a pet simply because they indulge them with the odd chocolate, or are unable to provide sufficiently stimulating ‘entertainment’, or to clean their pet’s teeth, or walk them at a time of day when ‘the sun is not at its hottest’. Evening perhaps? When the muggers and knife wielders are out on our streets? Or would that, too, be an infringement of basic animal rights?


All this on the same day as we hear that dealing with disruptive behaviour in nursery schools means that forty children per week under the age of five are being suspended from class. And when you read that in any one year more than fifteen hundred children under the age of four are being given ‘fixed term exclusions’ – whatever that means – well, I ask you! Isn’t it clear that if we’re so hopeless in managing disruptive behaviour in our children, there’s little hope of us adhering to this latest brainwave from Whitehall. More importantly, isn’t it about time we changed our government for one that doesn’t squander our hard-earned taxes in this way? Isn’t it time that we changed our priorities and gave greater consideration to the youngest and oldest members of our society? Isn’t it time that we looked at the causes of disruptive behaviour in our midst?

I’m sure Puppy and Pooh Bear (pictured) would approve.

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