Friday, July 30, 2004

New laws proposed to deal with animal rights protestors

The BBC reports that the Government is considering either developing new laws, or extending existing ones, to enable prosecution of animal rights activists who, for example, protest outside researchers' homes to intimidate them. The full details are to be announced on Friday.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Public consultation on gene testing

The Human Genetics Commission, the Government advisory body on developments in human genetics, has produced a discussion document on the social implications of some of the recent advancements in genetic technology. In particular, they want to know what people think about embryo screening and selection. Where should we draw the line between avoiding a genetic disorder and creating a designer baby -- and is there anything wrong with designer babies anyway? And given the new technologies, is there anything we should change about the structure or culture of our medical services?

The answers they receive from the general public will be used to produce a report to Ministers next year. The questions then are: Will the government pay any attention to what people have said? And, ultimately, should they?

Slug protection?

Apparently, new animal protection legislation proposed by the Government would offer the same protection to slugs and snails as to dogs and cats. According to the Telegraph, gardeners are up in arms about this, and deservedly so, if the report is true. Personally I suspect it's a matter of overzealous interpretation by a journalist looking for a story.

It does, however, raise the issue of how far we should go in the defence or protection of other animals. If we made it illegal to kill anything that might possibly suffer, then we'd surely starve. It is surely not wrong to count human lives above animal lives. Human pleasure, though, is a matter of debate. It is obviously wrong to torture a chimpanzee to death because you are a sadist and find it enjoyable. It is fairly obviously (to most people) right to subject mice to a small amount of pain to find a drug that cures cancer. Killing a cow (in a humane manner) because you prefer beef to lentils is accepted by most people, as is poisoning slugs because you want to see pretty flowers. But how about subjecting a chicken or a pig to a painful and miserable existence because you don't like the idea of paying a couple of quid extra on your roast? Any legislation that protects the slugs while leaving the chickens to their hell is seriously mixed-up.