On World Animal Day, How ‘Great’ Would Great Britain Be in Gandhi’s Eyes?
During a week that marks both Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday and World Animal Day, we thought it appropriate to take a moment to reflect on these words of wisdom from the “Great Soul”: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated”. If Gandhi were alive today, how would the UK fare in his eyes?
One of the first pieces of animal rights legislation in the world, the Cruel Treatment of Cattle Act of 1822, was introduced in the UK, and we’ve continued seeking protection for animals ever since. We were among the first countries to forbid experiments on chimpanzees, orang-utans and gorillas. The passage of the Animal Welfare Act of 2006 gave us a comprehensive law to help prevent abuse and neglect.
Fur farming has been banned since 2000, and a 2011 TNS survey shows that 95 per cent of people in this country refuse to wear fur. Foie gras production is also illegal, and this “delicacy” is so unpopular that most major retailers refuse to sell it. Every year, the UK consumes less meat than the year before – 245,000 tonnes less in 2009 than in 2005. A 2003 Consumer Analyst Group study indicated that Britain would be a vegetarian nation by 2047 if the current trend continues. And 94 per cent of people support a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses.
The animal rights movement is one of the fastest growing movements in history, but much more needs to be done before our treatment of animals can be called “great.” In 2008, the RSPCA investigated 140,575 cruelty-to-animals complaints. Only 2,574 offenders were convicted. There are approximately 250,000 captive animals in the UK’s zoos, aquaria and circuses. Approximately 3.5 million animals are used in laboratory experiments each year. Nearly 900 million cows, chickens, pigs and other land animals – and millions more fish – are killed for their flesh each and every year.
As a vegetarian and animal advocate, Gandhi would no doubt be appalled by the way that animals are abused, neglected and killed every day in the UK. If humanity is to make real moral progress, we must treat animals not as property but as sentient beings whose lives are their own, not ours. This World Animal Day, why not make a real difference for animals and honour Gandhi by ordering a free vegetarian/vegan starter kit or signing up for our Action Team?