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Remember the Animal Flood Victims
Posted 26 July 2007
The government is promising a new strategy to minimise damage from floods and other extreme weather conditions. National campaign group Animal Aid urges all relevant agencies to include in their planning the fate of animals, who will suffer grievously from effects of climate change.
Throughout recent weeks, animal victims of the floods have barely warranted a mention even though many animals’ lives have been lost. Pets have drowned in their homes while their human carers have been evacuated, and farmed animals have suffered and died in fields and barns. There are reports of sheep drowning and, in Herefordshire this month, 35,000 pheasant poults drowned in one hour when a river burst its banks. While the farmer lamented the loss of his hard work, comment was reserved for the economic impact of the weather on the shooting industry. There was no mention of the suffering of the birds who had been bred to be shot for sport.
Farmed animals who survived the deluge are still suffering its effects. Cows are being locked in sheds for even longer periods than usual, or are forced to stand in sodden fields, thereby increasing their risk of infection and lameness.
Extremes of weather already kill farmed animals every year. Farmers increasingly force sheep to lamb in mid-winter, causing many to die from hypothermia. And at the other end of the weather extreme, heat stress kills millions more animals and birds. In the heat wave of 2003, cows, pigs and particularly chickens succumbed, either in the fields where no shelter was provided for them, or in sheds and barns as ventilation systems failed.
Farmed animals are already confined, forcibly impregnated and routinely mutilated. Poultry are debeaked, sheep castrated and pigs have some teeth pulled out and the ends of their tails cut off. Disease on factory farms is rife and stress leads to self-mutilation. As our climate changes and weather patterns become more extreme, animal suffering is set to increase.
Farmers have repeatedly gone on record these past weeks bemoaning their own fate while neglecting to mention the fate of the many animal victims. They are supported by publicly-funded subsidies and compensations schemes. In response, they must be obliged to take responsible decisions about safe places for animals to graze, and suitable contingency plans, including shelter, feed and water, in case of emergencies.
Members of the public, who feel anger or sadness over existing farming practices or the suffering of animals in the recent floods, can simply opt out by not buying animal products. While people continue to demand meat, milk and eggs, cows, sheep, chickens and pigs will die in weather extremes and through neglect, injuries and disease.