We have just published our manifesto for the 2021 Scottish Parliamentary elections. It outlines the actions we would like the incoming Parliament and Government to take to improve the welfare of Scotland’s animals.
It contains 19 specific actions that we are calling for. They vary in form and complexity, but all are guided by a desire to see animal wellbeing ingrained into our society, not compromised for human gain. We believe that the values of kindness, dignity, and compassion, which lie at the heart of Scotland’s National Performance Framework, should be extended to the non-human members of our community.
Companion animals provide us with many things: a walking partner, a confidant, unconditional acceptance, cuddles, joy, entertainment. For many people they are a crucial companion and mental health support. We love our animals. Yet, in too many cases we don’t understand them. Research has shown that many companion animals do not have their own companionship or mental health needs met. We want the Scottish Government to launch a public education campaign to change this. We would like to see animal behaviour and welfare on the primary school curriculum, and educational opportunities for adults at various times – when they are considering getting a new animal, for example.
Our animals are also suffering physically. Many dog, cat and rabbit breeds have been selectively bred for decades to have certain physical features that we find attractive. Unfortunately, as these features have become more and more exaggerated with each generation, many of them now bring harmful side effects. In some cases animals suffer health problems throughout their whole lives. We would like the Scottish Government to require breeders to prioritise welfare over appearance. There should also be education around the suffering of animals with extreme breed features, to combat the powerful social media influence to buy certain trendy breeds.
The way that we buy and sell animals also causes harm. Most problematic are puppy farming, which fills the desire for popular dog breeds available immediately online, and the exotic pet trade, which fills a similar desire for more unusual species. The animals involved in both suffer in many ways. There should be better regulation of the trade in animals, to prevent such suffering and encourage responsible ownership.
Too often the way that wild animals are treated is rooted in tradition and sport. Certain species are labelled ‘pests’ and killed to protect the environment or human interests. This is done with minimal regulation and is often ad-hoc, at the discretion of individuals, and ethically and scientifically unjustifiable. We want this to change. OneKind is against the killing of animals but, if it must be done, then decisions should be based on evidence and ethics.
In practice this will include things we have been advocating for years, such as banning snares and foxhunting. But we are also asking for a full review of the welfare impacts of traps, and of the licensing system. We want any action taken to ‘control’ wildlife to undergo an animal welfare impact assessment and follow the international consensus principles for ethical wildlife control.
Animals used in research
OneKind began as the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Vivisection, and we have not forgotten our roots. We are calling for the incoming Scottish Government and Parliament to rapidly increase the development and use of alternatives to animal testing, and to press the UK government to phase it out altogether.
Animals used as food
Our food systems, in Scotland, the UK and globally, are destructive to the environment and animal and human wellbeing. We are part of a movement to change that in Scotland. As part of the Scottish Food Coalition we are working to make Scotland a Good Food Nation. For us, that means major changes to the way we treat the animals we use as food (read our blog about the food system flaws highlighted by the covid crisis here). Animals are individuals, not commodities.
We need to move away from our current intensive farming methods. Our manifesto recommends the first steps towards this, to address the most egregious welfare violations. These include ending live export and the use of cages, and the introduction of more informative labelling on animal products, to allow people to make purchasing choices based on animal welfare.
Some of the animals that we are going to eat are out of sight, under the water. They also desperately need better protection. We would like to see invertebrates that we eat, such as crabs and squid, recognised as sentient so that they receive the same legal protections as other animals.
The worst exploitation of underwater animals in Scotland occurs on salmon farms. These farms have such high levels of death, escape, disease and parasites that we would all rightly be horrified if they were on land in the public view. Yet the Scottish Government has endorsed plans to double the size of the industry by 2030. Our manifesto calls for the incoming Parliament and Government to reconsider this, and to halt industry expansion under the major problems are addressed.
The OneKind vision is a world in which non-human animals are recognised as individuals and respected for their capacities and priorities, which are different to but not lesser than ours. In which humans empathise with other animals, treat them with kindness, dignity and compassion, and allow them to flourish.
We ask that all parties and candidates join us in creating the changes needed to make that vision become a reality.
You can read our full manifesto here.