GE17: Manifestos on the Environment

Less than a week to go until the “snap” General Election 2017 that nobody wanted but what are the parties promising on the environment?

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Here’s a quick summary:

Green Party

  • preserve all EU environmental laws and principles after Brexit
  • introduce Environment Protection Act to preserve wildlife and habitats and ensure all have right to access green space
  • work towards global temperature rise of below 1.5 degrees
  • ban fracking
  • end fossil-fuel use
  • support onshore wind and solar power
  • all new homes to be zero carbon by 2020 and improve energy efficiency of old homes
  • remove diesel cars through scrappage
  • £2 million for cycle and walking schemes
  • redirect farmer subsidies towards sustainable land management
  • marine protection network around the UK, maintaining sustainable fish stocks

Labour

  • will meet international climate targets and transition to low carbon economy
  • protect current EU environmental standards and principles
  • nationalise the energy market
  • ban fracking
  • interest free loans for landlords to improve energy sufficiency of their properties, as well as improving insulation in 4 million homes
  • introduce a Clean Air Act
  • invest in electric vehicle manufacture and use
  • targets to reduce plastic bottle waste
  • plant 1 million trees to help natural flood management
  • protect land and sea habitats

Liberal Democrats

  • maintain EU environmental standards
  • create governmental office for sustainability
  • create blue belt for marine life
  • introduce a Zero Carbon Britain Act, Green Buildings Act, Zero Waste Act, and an Air Quality Act
  • expand renewables by 60% by 2030
  • diesel scrappage scheme
  • plant a tree per citizen
  • maintain Paris climate obligations
  • £2 million for flood prevention
  • redirect farmers’ subsidies towards healthy food and effective land management

Conservatives

  • continue to meet the international goal of reducing emissions by 80% by 2050
  • £600 million investment to make every car have zero emissions by 2050
  • upgrading poor fuel homes by 2030 to EPC band C
  • possible offshore wind technology, particular in the Scottish isles (if they are still within the UK….)
  • subsidies for farmers guaranteed until 2022 (new schemes to come into play after that)
  • improving water courses with landowners to manage natural flood defenses
  • commercial fishing to preserve fish stocks
  • free vote on the Hunting Act

 

Hope this helps you come to the right decision for the environment this Thursday!

Fox hunting – still protesting this shit

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2 years ago I wrote THIS blog post about Tory attempts to repeal the Hunting Act and I can’t believe we’re STILL having this argument and I’m STILL having to protest this shit.

It’s illegal. Give it up. Find another hobby. One that doesn’t involve foxes being torn apart and hunting dogs being mistreated and destroyed.

 

The Cruelest Show on Earth finally comes to an end

You know who I mean.

The big top tent of Ringling Bros circus will come down for the final time, at long last, after 146 years of well-documented animal cruelty and abuse.

Of particular attention to animal welfare activists has been the ‘breaking’ of elephants and the cruelty they suffer at the hands of their ‘trainers’; training which, by the way, is not required to submit to any legal welfare protection agency.

The happy news comes 5 years after the last British circus to exploit wild animals, the Great British Circus, drew to a close in 2012. Ringling Bros finally retired their elephants in 2016 to a conservation centre in Florida, losing their star attraction.

The company cited economic reasons for its closure, claiming that the train travel business model was no longer viable. Ticket sales have been dwindling, as they have with Seaworld since the truth of its cruelty towards wild animals became public knowledge because of documentaries such as Blackfish.

Animal activists can I think be more optimistic and see that people’s tastes in what classes as “entertainment” are certainly changing and fewer people are comfortable with bearing witness to animal humiliation and abuse for human amusement.

Trump’s threat to tear up the Paris agreement could help to make it law

Climate change denying president-elect (said with the contempt it deserves) Donald Trump has reiterated his campaign threat to tear up the Paris agreement signed less than a year that committed all nations to limit the global temperature rise to less than 2 degrees.

Trump believes (or claims to – who really knows what’s going on beneath the wig?) that climate change is a Communist conspiracy invented by the Chinese to bring down American capitalism. It’s not.

Last year, the UNFCCC managed to sign up all 195 nations of the ailing planet to a voluntary agreement to limit the global temperature increase and mitigate climate change; it’s key pledge is to:

Hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change

This is the world’s first comprehensive climate agreement and is absolutely essential in reducing the impact of climate change before it is too late. Within a year, 111 of the 195 countries have ratified that deal, making it official. It is a monumental achievement that both the US and China, which together account for over 40% of global emissions, actually agreed to do this, and Trump has promised to retract that commitment.

It’s not clear whether Trump will be “allowed” to back out of it; however, the actual agreement is voluntary, and consists of promises to change behaviour, and crucially there is no fiscal punishment for backtracking or failing to keep those promises.

It’s tempting to deny climate change – I was never very clear about the evidence myself because apparently the climate has changed a lot throughout the history of the planet. But it’s obvious to me that humans are destroying the earth – we’ve been cutting down those rainforests for decades with no thought or care about the wildlife housed within them, and polluting the oceans with our discarded plastic. So it makes perfect sense that there would be some environment consequence of this.

There’s not much we can do on an individual level, apart from recycle the little we can, limit our waste and consumption where possible, and walk the distances we can manage rather than driving. But what’s the point of me carefully cleaning out yoghurt pots when China and America keep on coughing up coal?

This song ‘4 degrees‘ by Anohni is an ironic anthem for our doomed planet and a challenging reminder that we’re all part of the problem.

climate_change_health_impacts600w
If climate change deniers don’t give a damn about the environment, maybe they will consider the health impacts on people demonstrated in this graph.

 

 

Angry white men can make their own excuses for voting Trump in

“He says what he thinks, right or wrong”, said one Trump voter. I came across this ludicrous quote when despairingly googling “why did people vote for Trump”. Whoever said that – it’s just not good enough, nor is it even accurate. Such apparent honesty is not to be admired for its authenticity – we must be ready to condemn people who say distasteful and offensive things, regardless of whether or not they mean it. Is a racist or sexist opinion legitimized because the speaker actually means it?

Clearly Trump’s unexpected victory is an historic moment; a totally unqualified man has made it to the highest office on earth, despite his obvious flaws, because women are hated that much. We can look back at his various public gaffs and consider what they mean now that he is president: it is now OK to publicly mock disabled people, generalise an entire culture as rapists, grope women and brag about it, scapegoat muslims. Most public officials are usually sacked for these sorts of things but in Trump’s case they have not hindered his ascent to power. Not only are some Americans worried about their futures in a Trumpian vision of the world, but parents are wondering how they can tell their children that it’s wrong to lie, that it’s wrong to sexually harass women, when their leader has done these things and got away with it.

Perhaps we should be empathetic to those who voted for Trump because they are working class men who have suffered from globalisation. Don’t ask me to apologise for the decisions of angry white men; they can make their own excuses. I’m interested in why 53% of white female voters chose Trump. It is a depressing blow to see that so many women are not feminists. And they can’t be when they have voted for a man who is alleged to have sexually abused women, and who has definitely bragged about groping women and getting away with it because he’s a rich and famous white man. In my idea of feminism, it is not possible to vote for such a man and be a feminist because he is a cliched epitome of patriarchy. It’s not just that the female voters have sold out the rest of the sisterhood, but their decision shows that Trump’s attitude to women is normal in their every day lives. While many claim to be disgusted by his comments, they still voted for him because they don’t see his sexism as important. Women are so full of self-loathing that they prioritise a white male’s desires over their own right to bodily safety. They have acknowledged that they see their only value as sexual objects and they, too, will suffer for this under a Trump regime in which their abortion rights will be denied. They have internalized sexism and reject Clinton’s ambition and success, or can’t relate to it.

Hillary Clinton, for all her flaws, is a representative for white feminism yet still she failed to win the white female vote. But it’s not her fault that white women don’t want feminism, or at least, they prioritise white supremacy over gender equality.

Corruption and the illegal wildlife trade

A new report published by The Guardian yesterday has exposed key wildlife trafficking crime groups and the corrupt government officials enabling them.

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The investigation was carried out by Freeland over 14 years and identifies through Thai government surveillance the main crime networks and individual traffickers who have profited around $23bn through illegally trading in animals, including endangered species, such as elephants, tigers and rhinos.

‘The Bach brothers’, two Vietnamese siblings, allegedly control one of the main trade routes in endangered species and are some of the key suspects in the report.

Why and how is this criminal trade so lucrative? It is the fourth most profitable illegal trade, after drugs, people and arms trafficking. A pair of rhino horns, for example, can sell for 200 times the original price in Vietnam and 400 times in China. Around 5% of rhinos are alive today compared with four decades ago, and around 1,000 are killed by poachers each year. Just to be clear – the rhinos are ‘detusked’ and left to bleed to death.

Rhino horns have been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine, and used to treat rheumatism, fever, gout, headaches, and all sort of other ailments, despite having no scientific basis in fact. Rhino horn is mainly made of keratin and has no proven ability to cure anything.

The Guardian report reveals that the known wildlife trafficking kingpin, Vixay Keosavang, has apparently brought his operations to a close, since the US put a $1m reward on his capture. This is the only monetary reward historically offered for a wildlife trafficker, and seems to have been almost instantly effective in halting his business. Since then, however, new players have taken over – the Bach brothers, who are:

well-known locally for their criminal activities, which also include vehicle smuggling; the Bachs run legitimate businesses in wholesale agriculture and forest products, construction materials, electrical equipment, hotels, and food services.

Today, the Guardian has also revealed  that senior officials in Laos have profited through a 2% tax on trade involving tigers, rhinos and elephants. For over a decade, the office of the Laos prime minister has cut deals with three leading traffickers to move wildlife through borders. The statistics are truly shocking:

In 2014 alone, these deals covered $45m (£35m) worth of animal body parts and included agreed quotas requiring the disabling or killing of 165 tigers, more than 650 rhinos and more than 16,000 elephants.

This trade is illegal and prohibited by the International Trade in Endangered Species.

Laos continues to be a full member of Cites, despite having been suspended in 2015 for failure to produce a plan to tackle the ivory trade, and again this year for failure to implement a plan to tackle the ivory trade. This new evidence proves that not only has Laos shown little interest in confronting the illegal trade in wildlife, it has actually profited substantially from taxing the trade.

You can read about the WWF’s efforts to stop the illegal wildlife trade here.

If we are to end this horrific trade in wild animals, we need an international approach that must involve robustly tackling the demand, enforcing the laws, and investing in the areas that are targeted by poachers, to promote education about the ecological need for diverse habitats and species, and to enable local communities to protect wildlife on their doorstep.

Most importantly, we need to kill the demand in Asia and China.

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I’m worried about the new Environment Secretary

If you’ve been too absorbed in Pokemon this week, you may be forgiven for missing the disastrous appointment of Angela Leadsom as Environment Secretary. Newly ‘crowned’ Theresa May (she has not actually been elected) has selected one of the least appropriate people to this position.

Are we being hilariously trolled?

Sadly not. Our new Environment Secretary wants to see the return of fox hunting for animal welfare reasons, and has voted to oppose climate change prevention measures. Perhaps I am an idiot to assume that not hunting a species might be in its interests? Leadsom thinks that the ban on fox hunting is “absolutely not proven to be in the interest of animal welfare whatsoever.”

A few years ago, Leadsom backed the government’s proposal to sell of Britain’s forests, so why on earth does she know have their future in her greedy, carbon-loving, oil-dripping hands? I would have thought that as a mothershe (and only she and other mothers) could appreciate the importance of protecting our planet for our children’s future?

Her appointment is part of wider, more insidious threat to environment protection; gone is the Energy and Climate Change department, and in its place we have the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. This represents a clear and defiant shift from climate change anxiety to a focus on business and industry (to the detriment of all else?)

 

Who’s Looking Out For Animals In This Election?

* Guest blog post from Politics student James Craske *

Animal Rights. Where do the parties stand?

Human concern for animal welfare stretches back a long way. Despite the regular news of animal abuse, we have come a long way from the prevailing attitude of the Ancient Greeks that animals do not possess reason, to the recent court ruling that temporarily granted chimpanzees legal rights to personhood. Throughout the 20th century, activists have made gains in ensuring that animal health and welfare now finds itself a place in all the major political parties’ manifestos.

But what pledges have they made this coming 2015 general election?

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Labour Party

The last Labour government oversaw the first Hunting Act in 2004, which outlawed the hunting of wild mammals with dogs, and introduced the Animal Welfare Act 2006, the first review of pet laws for 94 years. Speaking in February, Ed Miliband stated that:

‘Labour values tell us that we have a moral duty to treat the animals we share our planet with in a humane and compassionate way’.

In continuing the work set about by the previous Labour government, the party has pledged to end the badger cull, defend the 2004 Hunting Act and ban wild animals from being exploited in circuses.

Conservative Party

David Cameron has said a Conservative government would remain committed to offering a free vote to MP’s to repeal the Hunting Act introduced by Labour in 2004 if they are given another term in government. However, a group of Conservative back-benchers are intending to resist this repeal; the Conservatives Against Fox Hunting have worked stoically since 2011 to make sure that the Hunting Act and other reforms have not been overturned. Moreover, they have doggedly criticised the government’s continuing badger cull.

Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats have made a number of pre-manifesto claims to ‘ensure farming support is concentrated on sustainable food productions’. Their commitments extend to improving farm animal welfare and to reducing the use of animals in scientific research by funding research into viable alternatives. Importantly, they differ from the current Environment Secretary Liz Truss, in saying they would only support extending the current cull on badgers if they have shown to be effective, humane and safe.

Green Party

The Greens have made bold and consistent moves to put animal welfare at the top of their agenda. They go further than any other party in outlining a larger vision for society by stating the need to

‘foster understanding of our inter-relationship in the web of life and protect and promote natural habitat,’

and thus halting the destruction of the estimated 30,000 species we are currently losing each year. The Green Party have made commitments to end factory farming, including a ban on battery hens for eggs, preventing animals from being used for medical experiments, and ending the controversial badger cull. A fuller picture of the Green’s Commitments to animal protection can be found in their 2014 Animal Protection Manifesto. 

UKIP

UKIP have said they would scrap Green targets made by both the UK and the EU. On domestic issues, the party recently stated that they would be the first party to call for a complete ban on halal meat. The party maintains that this pledge is not being intended to stir up racial division, but rather to act on the conviction that the ethical treatment of animals comes before religious practice. However, UKIP’s animal welfare policy seems to be inconsistent and contains a number of contradictions, including the promise to re-instate fox-hunting. Furthermore, within Europe UKIP has voted against a crack-down on the illegal ivory trade, and, as the New Statesman recently reported, UKIP MEP Roger Helmer has claimed that dumb seal cubs deserved to be killed.

What’s Wrong With Animal-Friendly Animal Products?

The ethical consumer cannot simply trust a brand claiming to be animal or environmentally friendly; we all have a responsibility to do a bit of research to make sure a product is as ethical as it claims.

If the ethical exploitation of animals is at all possible, then it must meet certain welfare standards. The RSPCA ‘Freedom Food’ label is one brand which claims to raise and slaughter animals in better conditions than the rest of the meat and dairy industry, and it distances itself from the evils of factory farming.

Hillside is an animal sanctuary located in Norfolk, which has conducted several investigations into Freedom Farms, and has uncovered evidence of animals suffering conditions as bad as, and sometimes worse than traditional farms.

The idea behind RSPCA monitored farms is a noble one, though it has been repeatedly shown to be a failed model. Freedom Food is a charity set up over 20 years ago to ensure that every aspect of those animals’ lives meet the high welfare standards of the RSPCA.

Freedom Food is thee only UK assurance and food labelling scheme dedicated solely to improving farm animal welfare.

However, Hillside has filmed the treatment of animals on various Freedom Food farms in the UK and found that those standards of animal welfare are simply not being met. Recent footage shows chickens living in desperate conditions, crammed into tiny containers, and left to suffer with untreated wounds. According to this report in The Mirror:

Many of the birds had lost half their feathers and clearly had painful leg deformities. The filthy shed floor was littered with corpses, some in an advanced state of decomposition.

The problem with failing Freedom Food farms is widespread, as this report into pig farming demonstrates. However, this is a brand that is not doing too badly compared with other so-called ‘ethical’ brands. A report in the Independent rated Freedom Food as second, with Soil Association scoring 9/10 in ensuring the highest welfare standards were met on its certified farms.

What you should about ‘High-welfare’ animal products

 The Freedom Food label does not mean ‘free range’. The RSPCA does not feel it necessary that broiler chickens ever experience the outside.

– Freedom Food birds reach slaughter weight within just 49 days; in the wild, it takes chickens around three months to reach adult size. Leg and hip injuries are common place on intensive farms, and they have also been seen on Freedom Food farms.

– Sows are still forced to give birth and suckle their young for around 4 weeks in farrowing crates, which are so small that they cannot move.

– Some ‘free-range’ labels claim that piglets are either ‘outdoor-bred’ or outdoor-reared.’ In both cases, piglets might be bred or reared outdoors for several months but they are moved indoors into fattening units, which are cramped and overcrowded, and provide no stimulation.

– ‘Organic’ means that the use of chemicals in animal feed is prohibited. Arguably, animals lead slightly better lives on organic farms, but male chicks are still gassed at birth and male calves are still shot because they are of no use in the dairy industry.

Animal Aid claims:

There is no humane meat. Animals’ lives are as
important to them as ours are to us and none go to
the knife willingly. Choosing organic, free-range or
Freedom Food over standard meat, milk or eggs,
continues to cause pain and suffering, and wastes
natural resources.

10 Years After The Hunting Ban And We’re Still Debating It

Amongst the varied issues to be raised at the upcoming general election will be animal welfare; in particular, the 10-year old ban on hunting with dogs and the present day badger cull.

The Hunting Act was brought in by the last Labour government to protect foxes from the barbaric tradition that sees them chased for miles by a pack of dogs, until they are viciously ripped apart by the hounds. These days the methods employed by landowners to deter foxes from their fields are much more tame, though the activist group The Hunt Saboteurs would argue that many illegal fox hunts still take place.

In 2015, the British public are to ponder this Act once again, as the Tories threaten to offer a free vote to reform or entirely remove the Hunting Act, whilst Labour promise to retain it. Labour also promises broader attention to animal welfare, in their opposition to the failed Badger Cull, which has seen the inhumane slaughter of badgers supposedly infected with TB.

Labour have pledged to:

  • review the rules on breeding and selling dogs and cats
  • ban wild animals in circuses
  • end the badger cull, which has been taking place in parts of Gloucestershire and Somerset for the last two years in an effort to stop the spread of bovine TB
  • defend the Hunting Act
  • reduce animal cruelty on shooting estates
  • lead the fight against global animal cruelty

Animal welfare is often a neglected issue in British politics, despite strong feeling from the public. The Green Party are clearly the most committed to exploring and resolving these issues, as they aim to:

To eliminate the wholesale exploitation of other species, foster understanding of our inter-relationship in the web of life and protect and promote natural habitat.

A free vote could be disastrous for foxes, as many MPs seek an opportunity to return to traditional hunting methods which some believe to be more effective. However, nearly 11 years ago we decided to no longer be a nation defined by blood sports, and it’s hard to see why we would go back on that now.