Friday, October 16, 2009

United Kingdom. A Farmer. His Cows. And the Dark.

And there was the case of the case of the 65-yr old farmer, Ronald Norcliffe, who was fined £150 fine for failing to address the psychological needs of his cattle. What exactly were the psychological needs of cows could not be determined but keeping them in a darkened room proved unacceptable to officers from Kirklees Environmental Health department and the Government's Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). The darkened room was actually a basement barn that allowed little natural light to come in during the Winter. The barn lacked electric lights and the barn doors kept shut to keep the cold out. For DEFRA, such conditions in Norcliffe's farm at Scammonden, West Yorks, were a violation of the Animal Welfare Act. This was in August 2008, and Mr. Norcliffe has been a farmer for thirty years.

Bob Carr, lawyer for Mr. Norcliffe, stated that "In my respectful submission this didn't do any harm whatsoever." But how do we know that? Are harmful effects always evident? If we start with the assumption that cows are sentient beings, long periods spent in a dark room must cause some harmful effects. I don't think that we need to point to something and say, " That's what is wrong. " We are not talking about bats or other nocturnal beings. In fact, our ideal picture is one of cows that are out to pasture under sunny conditions.

But wait a minute. The animal-lover haters will surely portray DEFRA as having gone overboard with concern. Well, first of all, DEFRA is not necessarily an animal-loving entity. They're just applying the laws pertaining to animal welfare. DEFRA isn't PETA, in other words. Those who detest and ridicule animal-lovers are quick to label animal-lovers zealots and misguided fools with a twisted sense of priority. You know the deal. Some in the animal experimentation field even refer to us as extremists. The truth is that Mr. Norcliffe benefited from several notices from DEFRA to improve the conditions that existed in his barn. It was suggested that Mr. Norcliffe clean the glass windows and to cut the bushes around them. But Mr. Norcliffe ignored all improvement notices. The good farmer attached lights to a generator, but when DEFRA came calling the switch was off. Aside from the fine, Mr. Norcliffe was also charged with £50 costs and a £15 victim surcharge. Let there be light.

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