Sunday 20 October 2019

Stand with Sainsbury's

The supermarket chain Sainsbury's has made the decision to stop selling fireworks. I don't usually use this blog to write about this sort of thing, but I hope others will join me in supporting this, and to buy from their shops in October and November.

Every year petitions go out asking the government to ban the sale of fireworks to the public. So far, despite gathering large numbers of signatures, the government have declined to agree to the demand. Year by year I reluctantly sign these petitions. Reluctantly, because although I agree with the idea, I don't agree that banning or legislating against things is always a good idea.

Banning something or using legislation to make it unviable has several drawbacks. Frequently all that happens is the industry decamps abroad. In the UK, the production of a kind of goose liver paté called foie gras is not allowed because it involves keeping geese in conditions horrific for their welfare and force feeding them. However, this does nothing to stop the same product being imported from countries with laxer standards.

Forcing compliance with standards across the board can make it harder for the public to tell the difference between providers with truly high standards and cowboys who only do the bare minimum that is required. For example, if all breeders were forced to do certain health tests on their animals, the breeders who researched and chose of their own initiative to do such tests become harder to see. These people have generally researched many other aspects of what they do and are more knowledgeable, whereas someone who only does something because the law says they have to probably isn't and is likely not thorough in any other aspect they feel they can get away with. It can limit opportunities for the truly exceptional to distinguish themselves from the mediocre. In 2006, docking (amputating puppies' tails or applying a tourniquet so that part of the tail would die) was banned in the UK. Before this, breeders who put the welfare of the dogs at the forefront of their programme and would never cut parts off their puppies were easily distinguishable from others.

There is unfortunately a 'slippery slope' phenomenon, whereby banning and legislating tends to lead to extreme mindsets and more restrictive and illiberal pursuits. For example, animal welfare, which is scientific and concerns making sure animals are able to express their natural behaviour and are treated properly, is overtaken by animal rights, which is a pseudoreligious philosophy that preaches that people should exist in an artificial environment and never be allowed to interact with other animals, and promotes the extinction of domestic breeds.

So what is the alternative?

Interestingly, since the 2006 ban on docking, the amputation of puppies' dew claws seems to have gone into steep decline, even though this practice was not affected by the legislation. This seems to have come about because breeders are more open minded and better educated, and the people who buy puppies hopefully are as well. Tail-cutting seems to be declining in countries where it isn't banned, with many breeders in the USA and Canada promoting the fact that their puppies are entire and natural. It is a hopeful and positive thing that people can make good decisions and things like this can die a natural death by enlightenment.

It is ridiculous that shops sell small explosives and incendiary devices to the general public. Every year the NHS is inundated with injuries caused by fireworks, many of them to children. People are left scarred, blinded, mutilated, or even dead, because of something that is completely unnecessary. Animals and many people are frightened by the noise -- my dogs have never had a problem with this, but one November morning, a relative's pet pony was found dead in the hedge. The atmosphere and general environment are polluted, with spent shells littering the landscape where they can harm wildlife and livestock. This is before taking into account the kinds of damage they can do when they fall into the hands of the malicious or mentally ill: repurposed into bombs or used by lunatics to deliberately harm people or animals.

I hope the stand taken by Sainsbury's will prove the beginning of the end for this outdated practice.

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