Green lobby with power to pluck at heartstrings

David Nicholson-Lord on the remarkable growth of the animal rights camp aign

The turbulent confrontations over the export of live farm animals demonstrate the primacy of animal welfare as a "green" issue: it possesses a unique capacity for plucking at the heart strings.

In part this is the result of human affinities with the natural world which underpin the environmental movement. But it also a tribute to a highly successful protest campaign.

This has involved long-established organisations like the RSPCA and newer, more radical groups like Respect for Animals, founded by campaigners against the fur trade. Alongside bodies such as Compassion in World Farming, the International Fund for AnimalWelfare, Advocates for Animals and the Farm Animal Welfare Network , they have not only won the battle for public sympathy but in the process defeated an organisation once noted for its lobbying power and influence in Whitehall - the National Farmers' Union.

The measure of their success was the decision last year by all the major ferry companies to ban the export of live animals, in many cases against more "rational" and commercial judgements and in response to a vigorous demonstration of consumer power.

Stena Sealink, one of the last operators to give in, said it had received "hundreds of thousands" of letters, adding: "We're listening to the wishes of an increasing number of our passengers." When the RSPCA published full-page newspaper advertisements

calling for an eight-hour limit on journeys, 56,000 people rang in to support it.

Given the strength of feeling about animal welfare, such responses are scarcely surprising. Animal issues regularly top the league tables of environmental concern: a survey last month by Mintel, the market research organisation, showed that animal testing was by some distance the most deeply felt green issue, cited by 48 per cent compared with 32 per cent for the ozone layer.

On live exports this underlying reservoir of concern was tapped by copious television news footage of suffering livestock on long Continental journeys and an accumulation of hard data. The RSPCA found that nine out of 10 lorries exceed maximum journey times and one consignment of sheep bound for Holland ended up in Greece two and a half days later with 400 of the 600 animals dead.

The animal welfare case is that once the animals are over the Channel rules on welfare and journey times are pointless. Last month, after European farm ministers failed to reach agreement on maximum journey times - an eight-hour maximum and a 24-hour maximum were both on the table - Britain announced that it was going ahead with its own rules for a 15-hour maximum from 23 January. According to Mark Glover, of Respect for Animals, the rules will be "unworkable": the Continental authorities will simply not enforce them.

About 2.5 million lambs and calves were exported to Europe in 1993. Sheep face long, crowded journeys without food and water. The calves, meanwhile, are sent abroad into veal crates - a veal production system banned in Britain which produces the pale veal favoured by the consumers of Germany, France and Italy.

The paleness is produced by keeping the calves in the dark in tiny crates and giving them a diet which leaves them "on the borders of anaemia". Calves taken from their mothers at a day old are said to cry for them and to spend most of the time in the crates before slaughter licking and nuzzling each other for company.

Mr Glover said: "They are social animals. All they want is to be with their mothers and others of their kind. It is pathetically sad to see them in these conditions."

Slaughtering rules also vary widely across the Continent. Unlike the UK, many countries do not practise pre-stunning, for example. The animal welfare lobby says the live animals trade is unnecessary and blames "over-intellectual" media pundits for denigrating such feelings as "sentimentality". Science, for example, has shown that animals can suffer stress. Mr Glover says emotion, not sentimentality, is what drives the protests, "and there is nothing wrong with emotion . . . it is part of being human".

Suggested Topics
The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
Life and Style

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
First woman: Valentina Tereshkova
peopleNASA guinea pig Kate Greene thinks it might fly
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister

Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and that no-one was arrested

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)

Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
Northern soul mecca the Wigan Casino
fashionGone are the punks, casuals, new romantics, ravers, skaters, crusties. Now all kids look the same
Life and Style

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 5 Teacher

£80 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Year 5 Teacher KS2 teaching job...

Software Developer

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum Pensions Scheme After 6 Months: Clearwater People So...

Systems Analyst / Business Analyst - Central London

£35000 - £37000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Busines...

Senior Change Engineer (Network, Cisco, Juniper) £30k

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Salisbury ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities

The city is home to one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, along with the world’s oldest mechanical clock
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album