Might the new U.S. Congress go the same way?
How might a new U.S. Congress that’s looking to cut back on government regulation and pare back spending behave toward animals and the environment?
For a possible answer, look at what the new Conservative/Liberal government in the U.K. has been doing.
The new right-of-center coalition has been quietly scrapping animal welfare initiatives that were put in place by the previous left-of-center Labor government. Many of these measures were due to take effect next year, but are now on hold indefinitely.
Here are some of the big setbacks to animals:
Following major revelations of serious cruelty to animals after a year-long undercover investigation by the non-profit group Animal Aid, the Labor government had filed prosecutions against the operators of five large slaughterhouses.
The new government has dropped the prosecutions and has, instead, asked slaughterhouses to install video cameras to monitor their own operations and keep an eye on the 29 million cows, pigs and sheep a year who are affected.
In March 2010, just before the change in government, the Labor government introduced a new code that would have banned the breeding of pheasants. These and other birds are raised in captivity and then released onto lands where game hunters can shoot them.
The new government, which is supported by a large sport hunting constituency, has removed the code after being lobbied by the Game Farmers Association and the Countryside Alliance.
The Countryside Alliance, which also lost a battle with the previous administration to bring an end to fox hunting, is now lobbying to have that ban lifted, too.
A ban on the practice of cutting off the beaks of egg-laying hens in factory farms was due to come into effect in January 2011. The new government will delay this for another five years.
Beak cutting, which is also standard practice in the United States, enables more chickens to be crammed closer together without pecking at each other in their efforts to make space for themselves. About 20 million chickens a year live this way in factory farms.
After research indicated that more than 90 percent of the British public supported a ban on the use of wild animals – lions, elephants, crocodiles, tigers, etc. – the Labor government’s Minister of the Environment announced in March of this year, shortly before the election, that he was seriously considering a complete ban.
The new government has said it is reconsidering such a plan.
Badgers, who are a protected species, have been suffering from a form of tuberculosis, which they’ve also been passing on to cows.
In 2008, the Minister of the Environment ruled out mass killing of badgers and committed an additional $30 million to a vaccination program.
The Conservative Party, by comparison, backed the cull, and the new government has scaled back a trial vaccination program. It is also proposing the trapping and shooting of badgers, despite advice from scientists that this may simply make the problem worse.