Saturday, July 26, 2014

Animal welfare in a democracy?

It seems to me that one of the most important things we need to know in order to press for welfare improvements is how other people feel about animals — in particular what percentage of the population have particular views.

There have been some academic studies of this e.g.
http://scholar.google.co.uk/scholar?q=assessing+attitudes+animal+welfare&btnG=&hl=en&as_sdt=0%2C5

but most of them seem to have been looking at particular groups (e.g. college students) and trying to find out, for example, whether there are differences between men and women or between students with agricultural and non-agricultural backgrounds.

There have been studies of the percentages of vegetarians in different societies

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vegetarianism_by_country

and also market research studies of willingness to pay for/modify purchasing for welfare reasons

http://scholar.google.co.uk/scholar?q=animal+welfare+food+willingness+to+pay&btnG=&hl=en&as_sdt=0%2C...

Considering all these results together and looking just at the UK  it looks as though objectively about 50% of people don't care enough about welfare to modify their choices at all; around 40% are prepared to make some changes and 10% are willing to make very significant changes.

This immediately poses some difficulties for legislators; when they get lots of letters about animal issues how can they tell whether these are coming from the minority who care a lot or from the roughly half who care either a lot or just a bit? If they make changes as a result of lobbying how will these impact on the half who don't care at all (for example changes that might make food slightly more expensive)?

The answer possibly is that they can't tell — and that they also can't tell whether opposition to change is coming from a very active minority who nearly all write in or reflects the views of a majority who mostly don't get round to lobbying.

What does this mean for animal welfare?

Firstly, anything that helps to move people from the "don't care at all" group to either "care a lot" or "care a bit" is likely to make legal changes easier to achieve because even a small degree of shift would mean that a majority of the population cared. How you do this is more problematic because there's evidence that education doesn't have much effect on whether people care or not—you can teach people who already care about animals what constitutes better welfare (for example not keeping rabbits in hutches) but caring itself seems to be the result of socialisation rather than intellectual learning.

Secondly you can probably achieve more change by focusing on what the "care a bit" group do than by concentrating all your effort on trying to expand the "care a lot" group.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Grounded Swifts

Most fledgling (i.e. feathered) young birds are best left for their parents to look after, but young swifts are an exception. Swifts cannot take off from the ground and young birds who fall out of the nest or crash-land on their first flight do need help.

Swifts have a very characteristic rounded face with tiny, but wide-gaping beak so they are easily identified: Action for Swifts have several good photos on their website. There is a list of swift rehabilitators on the Swift Conservation website and they may be able to help or advise if you find a grounded Swift.

If a specialist Swift organisation cannot be contacted, the RSPCA will do their best to collect and rehabilitate swifts - call the national helpline on 0300 1234 999. Make sure you explain to the person answering the phone that the bird you have is definitely a Swift and not any other species. 

The recent bouts of torrential rain seem to be causing problems for Swifts, either because they're being beaten to the ground by the sheer force of water or because water rushing along house gutters is causing damage to nests.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Peafowl!

Source: Wikimedia Commons
Very pretty and we get a surprisingly large number of calls from surprised people who have woken up to find either a peacock or a peahen in their garden.

Peafowl can fly (they're really best looked at as similar to a pheasant) and unless they're hurt or trapped in some way any attempt by us to take them in is likely to result in a definite Peacock: 3 RSPCA: Nil type result.

For some reason, Wrexham council also seem to have lots of complaints about peafowl and they've produced a help-sheet for potential owners and finders.

If you're thinking of keeping peafowl you need quite a lot of land and very tolerant (or out of earshot!) neighbours.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Elderly Cats

The lovely weather that we've been having recently seems to have tempted several older (sometimes very old) cats to come out and enjoy the sunshine.
This is nice for them, but can be a headache for us when they venture further afield into neighbours' gardens. If the neighbour is a cat-lover they will immediately clock:
  1. This is a cat they've never seen before.
  2. This is an extremely thin and poorly-looking cat who needs their help.
As a result they will often either take the cat direct to a vet thinking that he or she is a sick or starving stray, or else contact us, and they may do this without any serious attempt to ask around locally to find the cat's owners.

Obviously if a cat is injured, then seeking veterinary help straight away can be a life-saver and is the best thing to do, but cats who are simply thin or very old-looking very often do have a caring owner — who may not be aware that the cat ever leaves their garden.

The best solution would be for all cat owners to get their pets micro-chipped, so they can be returned quickly if they are picked up with the best of intentions, but it's also very helpful if anyone finding a cat checks with their immediate neighbours before taking further action unless the cat is in need of immediate veterinary attention.




Friday, June 13, 2014

Follow RSPCA Week on Twitter

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

RSPCA Mythbusters Infographic

RSPCA Mythbuster Infographic
RSPCA Mythbusters - An infographic created by the RSPCA

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Canine over-population? It's complicated


This amazing infographic shows how a multitude of factors impact on the numbers of dogs in rescue in the UK. It was produced as a result of a scoping study done for the RSPCA by The OR Society's pro bono section. Four volunteers from DECC did the actual research and you can download the report here.

The main "take-home" message is that the solution to so many unwanted dogs is not simply "neuter your dog" (although that obviously helps) because so many other factors are involved.

(You may need to zoom in to see the graphic properly).