Nothing Changes When Fighting Animal Abuse Issues

Conditions rarely improve for animals

A couple of years ago I was a participant at a conference on animal welfare issues where several animal charities had gathered to discuss how to tackle the cat crisis that existed in the UK. Having listened for an hour or so, I felt as though I had been transported back several decades, as I realised that the conversation hadn’t changed at all over that period. Talk of catching and neutering all the stray and feral cats and releasing them, educating the public over neutering and operating free neutering schemes had all been visited before. Obviously these had been of little success, but with nothing new on the table everyone was excited about putting all their efforts yet again into solving the cat problem once and for all, whereas my inner thoughts were of “here we go again”.

It was somewhat of an epiphany for me, as I suddenly realised that nothing really changes when it comes to solving animal welfare issues and despite endless national and international legislation, improved scientific and technological knowledge, rising educational standards and plentiful funding, animal abuse and uninformed pet ownership continues unabated in the UK, and around the world for that matter, and we appear unable or unwilling to do anything about it. Arguably it is on the increase, with few people sincerely looking out for animals’ interests, which is particularly galling for those of us who have spent lifetimes attempting to improve their lot in life.

puppies, unwanted, stray, dog pound
We have never been able to solve the continual problem of unwanted animals.

Animals seem to have few friends these days and their interests and welfare are getting lost, with those entrusted with protecting animals apparently apathetic to the task, unable or unwilling to make any progress. Whether it is the media, the law, governments, science, academia, industry, the veterinary profession or welfare and conservation groups, they all seem to have an agenda of going with the flow and maintaining the  status quo as there are too many conflicts of interest, economic pressures and self-interest involved which hinder any positive improvement.

“giving rights to animals would seriously affect global economies”

Many observers confidently believe that our attitude towards animals has improved over the last few decades and that there is now general recognition among the masses that they deserve to be treated humanely and have their rights respected, which has resulted in their welfare standards bettering across the board. During a career in animal welfare that has spanned this period, I have seen no tangible evidence that this is so. Realistically the problems are just changing and increasing to alarming levels as more people have the financial means to keep pets, farming methods change, cultures insist on continuing to pursue deep-seated outdated attitudes and traditions and the available land for free roaming animals diminishes.

Abuse is heavily weighted in favour of our well-being at their expense.

We each play a part in perpetuating the use and abuse of animals but are unable to consider ending our involvement as their use provides massive employment opportunities and huge financial rewards to the point where any curtailment in their exploitation or giving rights to animals would seriously affect global economies and would impact on our lifestyles and pastimes.

Most, if not all the exploitation is heavily weighted in favour of our well-being at their cost and we have become so self-obsessed that we are not only losing sight of our responsibilities to them but are increasingly losing our empathy and respect for them. To many they have no real purpose or value anymore in our modern society except as unwilling participants in all our pastimes and hobbies and of course to eat, and we find it impossible to consider that they may have interests of their own particularly in living lives unfettered by us. They touch most of our lives in some way and they provide many of us with enjoyment, faithful companionship and complete trust, but we seem to always let them down at some point. Solving the issue of animal welfare and rights to everybody’s satisfaction is fundamentally one of the world’s final frontiers.

Updated 2020

Author: John Brookland

John Brookland has been passionate about animals from an early age and has always been more concerned about their individual health and well-being than any scientific or zoological interest. During his long and varied career in animal welfare in the U.K. and worldwide, he has unfortunately witnessed most of the horrors of animal cruelty there is to see and has gained extensive insight into animal welfare issues. On leaving school he trained as an RSPCA clinic assistant in London and later was manager of one of their veterinary hospitals and an animal centre. He was Chief Inspector and manager of the Bahamas Humane Society in Nassau and spent time in Trinidad advising on a humane stray dog control service, before becoming a deputy manager and animal health inspector at Heathrow's Animal Quarantine Centre. He then travelled the world for a conservation group investigating the capture and transport of wildlife for the pet trade and was an honorary consultant to the IUCN and CITES. He is now retired and still travelling the world with his partner to view wildlife and wild places and writing a blog and books on animals.