The eagerly awaited report on pet welfare from EFRA Committee is released tomorrow. Articles in the Sunday press at the weekend imply it was leaked during the embargo. Several papers published headline findings from the report, making it exceedingly tempting to start discussing and arguing its contents before publication.
Very quickly, it became evident, from various twitter feeds following those articles, that EFRA’s report conclusions (in their leaked form at least) are not going to please all those parties who submitted evidence. Motivating many (including a senior member of staff from one leading welfare organisation) to publicly dismiss the report before the public even had access to it.
I have not yet had the opportunity to read it in full. My prediction is that, for all of us who submitted evidence to EFRA, the conclusions and recommendations will include suggestions we fully endorse, suggestions we will struggle to support, and suggestions we actively disagree with. I can reliably predict this because the issues around animal welfare are so complex, the perspectives of animal welfare advocates so diverse, the influence of vested (i.e. pet industry) interests so pernicious that it is often hard to agree on the problems let alone secure consensus on solutions. The challenge of improving animal welfare often feels insurmountable and those elusive satisfactory solutions aren’t simple.
We should ask why?
The challenge is undoubtedly made far harder by those who claim to be working solely for the interests of improved animal welfare yet who continue to, at best, avoid asking sufficient “why” questions and at worst, deliberately put out misinformation and persist in vilifying and caricaturing parties they disagree with.
Can we agree on three simple things?
As we digest the report in full, would it be too much to ask all of us involved in the process of improving the legislative and regulatory framework for better animal welfare to do three simple things? Just three.
1. Foster a culture for shared facts and data
2. Be slow to draw conclusions and never ever jump to them
3. Ask, ask, and ask until we are blue in the face, those most valuable “why” questions.
Why might EFRA Comm have drawn those conclusions? Why might some parties be opposed to the suggestions we prefer? Why has EFRA Comm given priority to one animal welfare concern over another? Why would some stakeholders object to their findings? Why might their recommendations be beneficial to pet welfare? Etc, etc.
“How” questions would also be valuable but curiosity about “why” is for me, a most insightful quality.
I’ve had the privilege of working closely with many in this field, from stoic long-game independent campaigners, plus several senior people in our well-established welfare charities through to enlightened hard-working Members of Parliament. Every single one of them, I know, sincerely wants to bring about lasting reform for pet welfare. Can we please, in working on the EFRA recommendations, whatever they transpire to be, can we please find a way of forging a path of meaningful debate, deliberative discourse and constructive action?
Collective challenge ahead
Whatever is in the report in full, we still face the collective challenge of getting any of the recommendations past Defra, and we all know the effort needed for that. The EFRA committee report presents us with an opportunity to forge real progress in pet welfare but only if we can collaborate on actions and combine resources.
For a highly credible call for deliberative processes in animal welfare I recommend CASJ headed up by Dr Dan Lyons. This piece from Rob Garner for instance http://www.casj.org.uk/blogs/debate-animals/