Guest blog – The Ethics of Animal Exploitation part 2 by Alick Simmons

Alick Simmons is a veterinarian, naturalist and photographer.  After a period in private practice, he followed a 35-year career as a Government veterinarian, latterly as the UK Government’s Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer. Alick’s lifelong passion is wildlife; he volunteers for the RSPB and NE in Somerset, is chair of the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare, a member of the Wild Animal Welfare Committee and a trustee of Dorset Wildlife Trust. A particular interest of his is the ethics of wildlife management and welfare. He is pictured above on the People’s Walk for Wildlife in September 2018.

In the first post in this series, I argued that we, as a society, with exceptions, are involved in the exploitation of animals.  In this second post I set out the reasons why we need to do it better taking account of their sentience and needs. 

People’s view about animals sit along a continuum from one extreme to another.   At one end, there are those that believe any and all animal exploitation is wrong since it will inevitably cause the animal to suffer at some stage. We’ll come back to that view. At the other extreme, there are those that believe that animals are not sentient and can’t suffer.  Those views are not widely held but it is worth understanding the thinking behind it.  Sentience is the capacity to feel, perceive or experience subjectively.   Of course, because it is subjective, you cannot be certain an animal is suffering, frightened or in pain.  For example, pain is experienced only by the subject.  If I fall and break my leg in front of you, I may scream and writhe and you might conclude, rightly, that I am in pain.  But you don’t feel my pain.  You have simply extrapolated from your experience of pain, seen how I have behaved and concluded, ‘he’s in pain’.  Making that assumption is the basis of empathy and compassion in society.  It’s no different with animals. 

A dog with a broken leg might limp and howl.  Although we can never be certain, for the same reason that you would, I hope, empathise with me if I broke a leg, most people would conclude the dog was in pain and want to relieve its suffering.  It wasn’t always that way.  The 17th century philosopher, Descartes, believed that animals were automata.  If a dog struggles and howls in response to an injury, then this is to protect the body from damage, but the ability for it to suffer is absent. This had a profound effect on people’s attitude to animals and it wasn’t until the 19th century with increasing knowledge and enlightenment, the first laws to protect animals from beating and neglect, and from the cruelest experimental practice were enacted.

At the other end of the continuum is an absolutist position which has it that any and all exploitation is wrong.   It holds that in an environment which we share with animals, all interactions and interventions between animals and people should be avoided.  Of course, this includes veganism and an avoidance of all animal products including leather, down clothing and the new banknotes as well as meat and dairy products.  For me, it is too rigid a position as it takes no account of the enormous differences between the best and worst of animal care.  I would rather make a choice about what I eat from a wider appreciation of how animals are kept, cared for and killed.  Similarly, the absolutist would have us keeping no pets.  I am really not comfortable with that.  I gain a great deal of pleasure from my cats and, subjectively, I think they gain pleasure from me. 

I believe that most people fall somewhere between these extremes.  However, if we conclude that society benefits from some animal exploitation, we had better be clear about what we are prepared to accept and how we do it.  

Current legislation in the UK provides general protection through a duty of care while more specific and detailed legislation covers farm, research and other animals.    That in itself might be enough to satisfy many people but while the law provides basic protection, with few exceptions, for good reason it does not enter into the ethics of animal exploitation.  Animal law is also shot through with anomalies, compromise and inconsistency reflecting, in part, history, the inevitable compromise of law making and the different purposes to which the animal are put.  Putting it bluntly, there is no point in looking to animal law to solve your dilemmas, if you have them:  It is up to individuals to make those choices.

To illustrate the problem, consider these examples:

  • Some inconsistencies are historical, from a time when evidence was scant and attitudes were different. For example, it is illegal to dock the tail of cattle and horses but legal to dock those of pigs (in some cases) and lambs.  There is enough evidence from these species’ anatomy and physiology to convince me that their sentience and capacity to suffer is similar.  So why are they treated differently?  It’s unclear, but it is probably something to do with differences in way people perceive animals and their capacity to suffer.
  • Some seem to arise from an inconsistency in how we treat animals in different circumstances:  The brown rat is commonly kept as a pet, used widely as a laboratory animal and exists commonly in the wild.  There’s no reason to believe that the rat’s ability to suffer is any different in these different circumstances.  Yet the pet rat is cosseted and petted (and is frequently obese), the laboratory rat exists in one of the most highly regulated environments anywhere where the wild rat runs the risk of being poisoned and dying slowly from hypothermia, or being inefficiently and incompetently trapped using unregulated and unsupervised equipment.   As a society we seem to accept these discrepancies.  I hope I am not the only one who find these differences disturbing.
  • Some gaps in animal protection appear simply because the law hasn’t kept up with the science.  For example, there is ample evidence that decapods (lobsters, crabs, etc) are sentient and quickly learn to avoid an unpleasant or aversive stimulus.  However, in the UK, decapods are excluded from the general animal protection law allowing them to be boiled alive.
  • In debates about animal welfare wildlife are often left out.  Perhaps it is because we don’t see much wildlife unless we go out of our way and because few of us eat much game that the welfare of wildlife doesn’t get much discussion in comparison to farm animals and pets.  Wildlife occupies a peculiar position mainly because of the highly polarised attitudes between those that exploit the wildlife for food and commercial gain and those that seek to protect them.  Despite the lack of attention, the welfare of wildlife is often poor with arbitrary killing, trapping and poisoning much of which goes on clandestinely and with little accountability.
  • Fish have been similarly neglected perhaps because of their relatively alien environment and the difficulty we have in empathy with animals which are so very physically different from ourselves.  However, the body of evidence that fish feel pain is large and increasing.  It doesn’t take much thought to raise doubts about fish welfare when one considers the methods of recreational anglers and commercial fishermen which rely on, respectively, hooks to catch the fish and suffocation to kill landed fish.

Of course, farm animals represent the largest number of animals we exploit and concern about their welfare (along with concerns about the environmental impact) is one of the main reasons for adopting a vegetarian or vegan diet.  However, the differences between the best and worst of animal productions systems, both in terms of animal welfare and environmental impact, are so great that it is simplistic to conclude that all meat eating and using animal products is wrong.  There are systems of agriculture, particularly those for grazing animals, which respect the environment and, in some cases, enhance biodiversity and abundance, where the animals are able to display most of their behavioural repertoire.  On the other hand, there are systems which, by design and practice, stifle much of the normal pattern of behaviour and provide a pretty miserable life for their occupants. A lack of publicly available information about these systems and their food outputs, combined with a lack of clarity about the environmental impacts of the different systems is a significant impediment preventing you, as a consumer, making ethical decisions about animal exploitation. 

It gets more difficult when we consider animal research.   Few of us, I believe, would defend the use of animals to research the safety of cosmetics.   But the absolutist, abolitionist view seems take no account of lives that might be saved from increased scientific knowledge.  Much of the significant advances in medicine including vaccine technology, cancer treatment, organ transplantation and cardiac medicine would not have been possible without using animals at some stage.  Increasingly there are alternatives like cell culture but complex problems require complex solutions so researching heart disease, for example, in most cases involves animals.  A utilitarian argument[1] supports some but not all animal experimentation in that scientific research that advances medical knowledge is worth the exploitation of the minimum number of animals provided it is carefully regulated. 

In conclusion, there are inconsistencies and anomalies in the way we treat animals. There are also  fundamental differences between the best and worst of livestock farming with some of the worst conditions being a function of the system of husbandry.  Does that matter?  It does to me.  But despite being what some people might describe as an insider, I still find it difficult to make decisions because of a lack of information and apparently contradictory advice.  More, better information is needed.   I will explore this more in the next post.


[1]  The doctrine that actions are right if they are useful or for the benefit of a majority.

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51 Replies to “Guest blog – The Ethics of Animal Exploitation part 2 by Alick Simmons”

  1. It would be laughable to read this if it were not so utterly disgraceful and mendacious. Let us state one of the most egregious and disgraceful examples of double standards - the "domestic" cat, so-called, which this character freely admits to owning. In the Mammal Society survey of 1997, 986 cats surveyed in Bristol killed, in less than a year, 14,370 birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians. The extrapolated figure for the 9 million cats in the UK is 275 million of our native wildlife killed annually, including many red and amber list species; in the 20 plus years since the survey, that is over 6 billion, leave aside the sheer bloody cruelty involved. And you talk about inconsistencies and animal rights? You are up there with the RSPB and Wild Justice and the BBC, who routinely lie, obfuscate and mislead the public on this subject. There are no words for you people. At least with Trump we know what we are dealing with. Unbelievable. Still, Mark Avery is ex-RSPB, so there is no surprise in this. Given the choice between telling the truth, and speaking out for our wildlife, and for genuine conservationists and nature lovers, and taking the cat owner's money, it's the money they prefer, every day of the week.

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    1. Thank you for this. I am not sure how to respond. Perhaps it’s best just to look forward to your detailed consideration of animal ethics at some stage in the future which goes beyond ‘let’s kill all the cats’.

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      1. One can only assume that Mr smith also refuses to "take the cat owner's money" from anyone with a cat who seeks to employ him for his tree husbandry services. I had a cursory look on his website but I was unable to find any reference to this policy.

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        1. As I said Jeff, I'm afraid I fail to grasp your logic. I am not a paid representative of a conservation organisation who is misleading the public about cats, and that is what I object to. Nobody is paying me to write this. Please enlighten me as to your thought process, and exactly what it is you think you are accusing me of.
          I do indeed accuse Alick Simmons of hypocrisy, but you will note that instead of defending himself, he says "let's kill all the cats", as if I had said that. I did not say that. I am afraid that this is the kind of thing I am used to from people like him - he puts words in my mouth which I did not utter (but he did), and then attempts to smear me with them. What does that say about him? He also says further down that he sees no need to reply to me. Again, I ask: why not? I am asking you to engage in open, truthful and honest debate, nothing else, and you are refusing to do so.

          He also implies that I don't have a well thought through ethical position on animal rights - again, his implication, based on no evidence whatsoever. As it happens, I have spent a lifetime considering these issues, and I am very happy to discuss any aspect of my thinking, how I arrived at the conclusions I have, and anything else which is relevant to the debate. I have nothing to hide, and you can ask me any question you like, and I will attempt to answer it honestly. I have learned over many years that that cannot be said of the RSPB and the Vegan Society, to name two. I have the proof, and everything I say I will back up with facts, reason and evidence. So I invite any of you who have replied or commented on what I have said to engage in honest debate. That is all I ask, beginning with Alick Simmons, since he has the benefit of the platform given to him by Wild Justice to promulgate his views, and that is what initiated my response.

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          1. You are correct, Mr Smith. I am not engaging with you directly. There are reasons for this:
            1. Experience tells me that debates which start with one protagonist accusing the other of mendacity and hypocrisy are rarely fruitful.
            2. Your response concentrates on cats while seemingly ignoring the others species and circumstances of kept animals. I do not advocate keeping cats. Neither do I rush to judgement about those who do.
            3. I know little of you. Your website seems to inoperative and while your views on the subject of the blog remain obscure, other than those about cats, there seems little point. Your subsequent posts do nothing to alter that view.

            For the record: I am not a paid appointee or an employee of the RSPB or any other conservation organisation. I do voluntary work for the RSPB. This consists of survey work in Somerset. I am a member of a charitable organisation, the Wild Animal Welfare Committee and have appointments with two other charities one of which I chair (see the links in the introduction). I receive no payments from any of these other than my expenses. I receive a civil service pension and I am a paid consultant on animal health to a number of organisations. I receive a very small amount annually from the sale of my photographs.

            I am not associated with Wild Justice although I have contributed a small amount to their running costs. I expect to do this again. How I spend the rest of my income is my business.

            If you ask nicely I might show you my tax return.

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      2. I just wrote a very long and detailed response to what Alick Simmons said, and it seems to have mysteriously been wiped out. Par for the course, pretty much. I also addressed the other comments, such as the questioning of the Mammal Society survey. The person who looked at my website and found no mention of cats was obviously trying to make some point, but exactly what that was escapes me. Could they please explain their "logic" if they consider it to be such?
        In the meantime, can all those who claim the right to "own" an carnivorous mammal over which they have no control, which they then turn loose to kill wildlife on an industrial scale please explain to me what right they think they have to do so? As a starter, you might like to consider whether, if someone else's dog came onto your property and killed your cat, you would be quite happy with that. Please give it some thought, and then reply.

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          1. Mark, can you explain to me how Jeff p has browsed my website, as stated in his post? It does not bother me particularly, since as I say, I have nothing to hide, but I thought this was supposed to be confidential.

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    2. "This character" asserts that Alick's piece is disgraceful and mendacious but does not provide any indication of what parts of the OP he considers to be untrue or what evidence he has for this. Alick's piece does not make any comment about bird predation by cats either one way or the other so it is hard to see in what way he is being disgraceful or mendacious on this specific point which seems to be "this character's" main beef.

      Arguably, cat predation on birds is an example of the dilemmas involved in our relationships with animals that Alick is talking about. They certainly kill a large number of birds as well as small mammals and reptiles and there is no doubt that it can be distressing to see a cat playing with a still-alive blackbird chick on the lawn but what should we make of this?

      "This character" would seemingly like to see cat ownership outlawed but - assuming that it would even be politically possible to achieve it - is there any justification for this? I believe that despite the seemingly large numbers involved there is no evidence that cats are responsible for a decline in numbers of any song-bird species. The species that are most seriously declining are not the species that commonly show up in Tiddle's jaws. Conservation bodies would be taking their eye off the ball and diverting attention away from more serious conservation threats if they started to campaign against domestic cats.

      With respect to the cruelty involved when cats kill birds and small mammals this can, as I say, be unpleasant to see although I don't imagine that from the bird's point of view it is any nicer to be predated by a great-spotted woodpecker, a weasel or a sparrowhawk. Cat owner's can take steps, though, (and I would encourage them to do so) to reduce the number of birds caught and advice on this is available on the RSPB's website.

      Feral cats are also, of course, implicated in the poor conservation status of the Scottish Wild Cat, as a result of hybridisation. The neutering of farm and village cats and the trapping and neutering of feral cats is to be encouraged, I believe, as a means of reducing this problem.

      Personally, far from being disgraceful and mendacious I have found Alick's posts on this subject to be thoughtful and refreshingly nuanced and I look forward to the next in the series.

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      1. Thank you for your kind comments. I agree that keeping could represent an ethical dilemma particularly if the evidence shows that the domestic cat is responsible for the decline of certain species of bird. To this end, I have enrolled my cats in this project:

        https://www.exeter.ac.uk/news/research/title_706695_en.html.

        As for Mr Smith, I don’t feel I need comment further.

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        1. Mark, going back a few days, you asked what improvements to the site. Maybe links that work would be good. (as above)
          No idea how it’s done though.

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    3. While I don't really understand Mr Smith's point, because Mr Simmons' article was very interesting and raised many points that we, humans, must address immediately, I do agree that the issue of cats is one that should be resolved quickly. And doubt anyone is calling for an outright ban on keeping cats.
      I own two cats myself, as well as two dogs and it baffles me that cat owners' main argument for letting cats roam is to 'keep them happy'. As a dog owner, I just don't get it. My dogs would love to be let out to roam too - they would be very happy to take themselves out for walks! But responsible dog owners wouldn't even think about letting their pets out - due to the dangers they could potentially pose, the dangers they would face and the damage they could do. So are cats any different? No.
      *Cats destroy property - digging out plants in gardens, using other people's gardens as toilets, attacking chickens and other smaller livestock/pets. They also often enter people's property and cause stress to pets kept there.
      *Cats do kill wildlife. Whether it has any impact on the wildlife in question or not, it would be nice to see some evidence, but that doesn't really exist, so how can we say they have no impact at all?
      *Cats have a potential to cause accidents on roads - it only takes one person to swerve to avoid hitting a cat and causing an accident.
      *Cats pose danger to the public - we keep forgetting that some people are afraid, very allergic to or simply don't like cats (it's their right). Cats also can attack, bite and scratch people, especially kids.
      *Feral cats carry diseases and have negative impact on people and their pets. Some can't even use their gardens because they're overrun by ferals and council don't care at all.

      There probably are many other points I could make against letting cats out. It's a selfish thing in my eyes because those who do let cats out never think about what impact this has on others - and on the cats.
      How many die on roads? How many are abused by horrible individuals? How many are attacked by dogs/foxes/other cats?
      Fact is, cats do not need to roam. They are perfectly happy indoors. All you need to do is enrich their environment - we do that for dogs, why not cats? They can go out on walks on leads too. You can now cat-proof gardens so they can enjoy the outdoors without leaving the owner's property - it's your cat, it's your responsibility so if you can't control what your cat does, you shouldn't allow it outside.
      My two are perfectly happy indoors, with their scratch posts, secure garden and tons of toys. They also go for walks from time to time. I treat them just like I treat my dogs - precious family members who need to be kept safe and for whom I'm responsible. I don't understand why cat owners get so offended every time somebody says they should keep their pets contained - think about not just wildlife but your neighbours. Nobody wants random cats visiting their garden to use as toilet and damage their property - plants cost a lot of money, yet while we can claim back for damage done by a dog, there is no way to track down the cat's owner. Think about other people's pets too - dogs and other cats have a potential to kill or injure cats that invade their territory and you, as the owner who is not in control of their pet, have no right to point fingers and blame the other animals' owner for it.
      Fact is, cats are better off kept at home (they are the only type of pet we allow to roam freely) and if people really do care so much about them, they will get everything a cat needs to keep it happy. Don't just open the door for your cat and let it do whatever it wants - play and interact with it instead...oh, and think about the impact on other people and animals it could potentially have when roaming.
      As for impact on wildlife - any wild animal lost to a cat is a needless death. Domestic cats are invasive, alien species that don't belong here. It's a fact, and it doesn't come from somebody who hates them - I love my two cats dearly.

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      1. As you rightly say, any wild animal lost to a cat is a needless death. I have put a lot of detail on this, but ultimately, nothing else needs to be said. There is no justification for one single wild creature being killed by a pet, whether cat or dog, yet they are killed in their millions and billions. Nothing more need be said. You are honest in a way that most cat owners, and the RSPB, and the Vegan Society, are not.

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  2. There is no doubt that humans, who are now recognising, as they have not done in the past, that perhaps we should consider our attitude to animal suffering, have not treated any animals well. But how far should we go towards recognising their suffering? I am not prepared to stop walking in the countryside to avoid killing insects I walk upon. There has to be a practical limit to how far I am prepared to change in my behaviour on behalf of the 'lower orders' of animals. I also like to eat fish, so I find the decisions easy. If I campaign against those who think they have a right to prevent me seeing raptors, the destruction of the environment as well as large scale killing of insects and animals implicit in our farming methods, I'm allowed to eat the occasional lamb and fish. In any event, it may be that we humans have already passed the tipping point which will make our planet uninhabitable for a long time. We will all suffer if that is the case.

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    1. Thank you. You’ve clearly thought about it and provided you continue to think about it in the light of new evidence about sentience, that’s even better.

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  3. I would like to add the following, regarding the much-lauded Mammal Society survey mentioned above. As someone who has passively collected and prepared natural history specimens for a range of museums for nearly 50 years and also kept a number of domestic cats for over 35 years ( while collecting and subjecting to post-mortem all the prey they bring in dead) I have some serious misgivings about the methodology of the Mammal Society study, which I am confident overstates the level of predation by domestic cats. At the heart of my concerns are first, the reliance on pet owners to identify prey ( which many cannot do accurately)and secondly, the assumption that every prey item brought in by a domestic cat necessarily has the cat as its proximate cause of mortality. My own observations (35 years, 41 cats, 3,100 prey items) show that only some 40% f prey were unequivocally healthy individuals on capture; the majority were injured, sick or in many cases had actually been found dead by the cat. Among the frequent non-flyers were collared doves moribund in the garden with enteritis or in many cases airgun wounds. Very few pet owners have the experience or inclination to make accurate assessments of proximate cause of death. The Mammal Society study did not address this major flaw in its data collection. Further, the study covered only nine months of the year, covering mostly summer when predation of recent fledglings ( and their associated other mortality) inflates the total prey items. This total is then used to extrapolate figures for the entire year, when they are by no means representative. A further conflation is provided by the failure to address the plain fact the many domestic cats lose interest in hunting as they age, while many never develop the habit. Others can specialise; among my own one Siamese would only catch frogs ( and release them alive) while two of my current team predominantly catch brown rats, precluding any need for poison. In one sense the Mammal Society study does provide a useful snippet, the majority of prey is small mammals, notably rats, mice and voles. Much of the 'noise' regarding domestic cats emanates from 'bird lovers' It should be recognised that Brown Rats are significant predators of both eggs, nestlings and even adult birds, while neither they or House mice are native species. While this is not any reason to adopt high standards of humane control, the actions of cats in controlling these pest species is highly beneficial in the rural economy, something which did not escape the attention of Alfred the Great!
    Finally, I much enjoyed both of Alick Simmons blogs and look forward to the next. As someone who has legally exploited animals in many ways throughout my life I recognise the conflicts he describes; in my own dealings I have on occasions been compelled to apply my own standards when the generally accepted ones failed to impress me, it seems that in many cases the legal requirements should only ever be considered the barest minimum acceptable, there is always more to be done and benefits to be gained by improving the circumstances of those animals we choose to exploit

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    1. Thank you for your kind comments. It's a shame that we have been diverted into a debate about cats. Important as this subject is, it not the subject of the blog. However, your final paragraph shows to me that you suffer from the same dilemmas as me. Keep commenting on the subsequent posts.

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    2. Morning Norman,
      The Mammal Society survey is routinely questioned by cat owners and their apologists. In your case, I am reminded of the famous quote from the Profumo affair (I think): "He would say that, wouldn't he?"
      You freely admit that you are a cat owner. Do you then consider yourself to be an unbiased observer? I would suggest that you are not. In legal terms, you have a conflict of interest.
      Again, obvious questions present themselves, which, like Alick Simmons, you do not bother to address. If you do not consider the survey to be accurate, what is your best guess as to the numbers of our wildlife killed by cats? If there are 9 million or so cats, is it likely that the death count will be in single figures, the dozens, the hundreds, the thousands, the hundreds of thousands, or the millions? What do you think, and what process do you use to arrive at your conclusion? Personally, I am a fan of common sense. I would suggest that common sense gives you some idea of the answer to the question I have just posed.
      It is also routine for people like Cat's Protection (again, are they impartial? tricky one, that) to state that some cats do not hunt much or at all. In the light of this, I would like you to comment on the following: I was talking to a friend of mine not so long ago about this issue, and she told me they used to have a cat she called Bad Cat. It was called that because, she told me, it was such an adept hunter that it used to bring some prey item, some dead wildlife, home, every single day. If that was the case, that would be 365 dead birds, animals, reptiles and amphibians each year.
      Perhaps you would like to comment on that. I look forward to your response. As I have said before, not only would I be happy to stand up in a court of law and repeat everything I have said under oath, I would like the RSPB, The Vegan Society and the rest to take me to court so that we could have these arguments in public. Yet, even though I call them liars and frauds, they do not do so. Again, using commons sense, why do you think that is?

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  4. The only reason domestic cats are causing issues with hybridisation with Scottish Wild Cats is because there aren't any left! Where have they gone you may ask?
    Killed by gamekeepers is the answer.
    And even though they are down to perhaps just 40 individuals they are still being targeted!
    Personally I would like to see domestic cats contained in pens in gardens. In parts of Australia they will shoot your moggy if it gets out to protect their native species.
    If Wild Justice where to pursue an act where domestic cats would have to be contained, do you think they would receive the sort of abuse and death threats from cat owners that has come from the shooting sector?

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    1. Derek Gow has made the same point that a healthy wildcat population isn't threatened by hybridisation, I'm also a bit cynical about feral moggies managing to survive very far away from humanity in this country although I know it happens elsewhere. It would be pretty amazing if eagles are still being illegally persecuted, but wildcats aren't. Plenty of stories coming out of the glens of keepers who weren't so long ago boasting of their prowess in killing wildcats. They can afford to profess a concern for it now as it's almost gone. Of course they're using the wildcat as a pawn against lynx reintroduction, all the clichés 'lynx will kill wildcat.' 'why not concentrate on what we already have'. The lynx would eat a lot of foxes which compete with wildcat and less deer browsing means more cover for wildcat. Plus IF any domestic moggies move into wildcat habitat I'm pretty sure a ginger tom would be a hell of a lot more of a target for a lynx than a well camouflaged, bigger and cautious wildcat. https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/england-wildcats-rewilding-devon-derek-gow-extinct-a8929311.html

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  5. My view is that this is such a complex subject that it is almost certainly impossible for someones opinions and actions to be consistent when considering every possible instance where our actions could impact on the well being of sentient creatures. For example I'm vegetarian and trying to go vegan (but am struggling to give up cheese) because of the amount of suffering that is involved in most livestock farming. Yet at the same time I'm quite happy to take medication on a long term basis despite knowing how much suffering the pharmecutical industry causes. Does this make me a hypocrite, quite possibly, and for my actions to be consistent maybe I need to stop taking the medication I'm on. This is something I'm not prepared to do and I would challenge anyone who is against animal testing to choose not to take medication, should the need arise, for a life changing/threatening condition, or deny that opportunity to others.
    Sadly suffering seems to be a basic fact of life. I reckon that in nature most animals either suffer a violent death through predation, or a slow painful death by desease or starvation, e.g. predators that are old or injured and unable to hunt effectively. It therefore follows that most animals inflict pain and suffering on other sentient beings. While humans may be in a unique position in that we are able to begin to understand the suffering that our actions may cause we are still (evolved) animals and not immune from what seems to be a fundamental "law of nature" that in order to improve our lives it is sometimes nescesary to inflict suffering on other sentient beings.
    Obviously there are a lot of things we can do to reduce the amount of suffering in the world e.g. not buying animal products that have been produced by intensively rearing livestock everything we do has an impact. For example if we eat wild caught fish then those fish have lived a natural life but suffered a painful death. If we eat plant based foods instead then the farm they have been grown on has deprived wildlife of the habitat it needs. Which is worse? I honestly don't know. Since everything we do can potentially have a negative impact on other sentient being I think it is wrong to say that we shouldn't to something because it has a negative impact. Instead we should try to weigh up the negative (and in a some cases) the positive impacts of an action against the impacts of alternative actions. For example I'm convinced that the vast majority of cat owners benefit from having pet cats and (provided they are well cared for) the vast majority of cats benefit this has to set against the fact that cats will kill a lot of birds. Alternatively we could consider conservation grazing. I can understand how some purists/absolutists could be against this as it involves using sentient beings as a means to an end, however the absolutist view fails to take into account all the other forms of life that benefit from a small number of livestock being used/exploited.
    This whole subject seems to have so many grey areas and potential contradictions that I feel it is wrong for people to try and see it in black and white and say that because something has some negative impacts it is therefore bad/wrong.
    Alick should be congratulated for addressing a very complicated , and contreverial subject in a well thought out way, and I look forward to his next blog.

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    1. Another person talking about intensive livestock as if it is cruel.
      He talks about cheese so I assume he thinks milk production with animals almost always in the UK just housed in winter.
      Reasons are it is better for the animals and Also would make the fields into a muddy mess getting lots of foot disease.
      Always think it funny that if farmers put animals in buildings it is just about the biggest crime ever committed yet here they are working in central heated offices and going home to posh central heated housing.
      Why do they not give living in conditions they wish on animals outside themselves.
      Try living outside like humans did in the relevant recent past of two thousand years ago.

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      1. Thank you for reading the blog and commenting. Much of modern animal keeping, whether the animal is farmed for meat, kept to be ridden or as a companion or kept for research involves modifying that animal's behaviour considerably. Science has demonstrated that many animals kept in those conditions suffer a stressful existence. I am not comfortable with that. It seems that Mr Dalby is similarly minded. However, there are many systems of animal keeping that I am quite comfortable with as their normal repertoire of behaviour is less inhibited. The purpose of this series of blog posts is to stimulate debate. I look forward to reading your considered view as you (and others) read further posts.

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      2. Dennis, I would advise you to go on BBC iplayer if you can, and see if you can listen to The Moral Maze, on Radio 4, on animal rights. Off the top of my head, I can't remember the date - it was last year for sure, possibly even 2017 - but I'll try and look it out. Have a listen to what the "communications director" of the Vegan society has to say. If you want an example of someone lecturing others on animal rights whilst ignoring her own disregard for same, you will struggle to beat it. It knocks the Emperor's New Clothes into a cocked hat.
        Regards,
        Rick Smith.

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  6. Thank you. Your thoughtful comments and those of some others demonstrate that I am far from being alone in considering these matters. Do keep reading and commenting.

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  7. Unfortunately Mr. Simmons, you prove my point. You claim not to engage with me for entirely spurious reasons. I have asked you some perfectly reasonable questions to which I would suggest you have no adequate answer. The way you get around this is to refuse to engage with me, just as the RSPB do.

    Please answer the question: if you think it is perfectly acceptable for you and millions of others to "own" a carnivorous mammal (over which you exercise no control; hence "own", in inverted commas) which will come onto my property (and everyone else's) and kill things, then would you would be perfectly happy if a dog came into your garden and killed your cat? After all, it would make not a blind bit of difference to the overall population of cats in the UK, and that is the sole criterion which you and people like you claim is relevant. I think we all know the answer to this, which is why you are being so evasive.

    So, kindly answer the charge please, and address this issue.
    As to your other other attempts to divert attention away from your being put under scrutiny, I have a well founded contempt for the RSPB, for whom you volunteer, because if I, or anyone else looked to them for support, they will be found, like you, to be standing shoulder to shoulder with the cat owners, not the true conservationists, and ordinary people who want to see nature in their garden, but do not because their neighbour's cats kill everything that moves. The RSPB's stance is, as I say, because they prefer the cat owners money. Again, I have many examples of this. Whether you personally are being paid for this or not is not the issue. I am happy to take you at your word, and accept that you are not, so I have no interest in your tax return; so again, please do not use this kind of obfuscation.
    The charge I level at you, I repeat, is that you claim to stand for nature and conservation when in fact, as you have made clear, you stand with the cat owners.
    Let me then disprove your attempt to smear and misrepresent me. I see that you are also a trustee of Dorset Wildlife Trust. I live in Dorset, and have been a member of DWT for many years. I coppice my own woodland, practice conservation grazing, and live my life in and for nature in every way I can. I extend an open invitation to you, and indeed to Mark Avery, and anyone else who reads this, to come here, and I will show you the work that I do, the many species we have here, and you can then explain to me why it is that you, or anyone else, claims the right for your cat to come here and kill dormice, for example. We have dormice here; I have found both nests, and dormice themselves, during the work that I do. !2 were killed by the 986 cats in the Mammal Society survey, a figure admittedly dwarfed by the 1,765 wood mice killed, which we also have, of course. We also have house sparrows, once common, now red listed. Since those same 986 cats killed 961 house sparrows, perhaps you might like to comment on that. Quite a high figure, wouldn't you say?

    To return to the main subject, let me give you a simple example, one of many, of the double standards claimed and maintained by the likes of you and the RSPB. We have some neighbours here - I use the word loosely - who have dogs, which in the past, they seemed unable to control. I found the dogs running through our woods several times. To my certain knowledge, they killed at least two roe deer, and it could well have been more. The second time this happened, I retrieved the body of the doe and put it in the back of my truck. I then drove to these people's house, and when the woman answered the door, I threw the dead doe on the floor, and told her that if I ever saw one of their dogs on my property again, I would shoot it.
    Guess what? Since that time, the problem has not re-occurred. Unfortunately, those same people have cats, and of course, it is not only them, but many people round here. We are surrounded by cats, like so many, in the country, in the village, in the town, in the city. Perhaps you begin to apprehend the problem, Mr. Simmons. Dogs are subject to the law. When I had the problem caused by my nieighbour's dogs, I had the law on my side; hence I was able to deal with it. Cats are not subject to the law. How does this extraordinary anomaly occur? We know how it occurs. It is because of people like you, who continually misrepresent the truth, and mislead, and obfuscate. I don't volunteer for the RSPB Mr. Simmons. I despise them, because I know that in my problem with cats, in anybody's problem with cats, they do not stand with me in my efforts to conserve nature; no, they stand with the cat owners. That is where they are, and that is where you are. As I say, please do not run away, please do not hide behind false arguments.
    Answer the charge. Thankyou.

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    1. Rick - you sound utterly charming. You said you’d shoot her dog? What do you usually shoot I wonder.

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      1. This as yet incomplete series of posts are designed to help others see past the polarised positions some people adopt and help them set their own ethical framework based on better information. However, it seems you have already done that. That’s fine.

        I don’t respond well to being insulted or shouted at. This and your frankly unhealthy attitude to cats hasn’t made me change my mind. I am not about to give you the oxygen you so clearly crave. I don’t respond well to being insulted or being shouted at. I suggest you look for another website that better reflects your values.

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          1. Like so much that you claim, Mark, your words and actions do not match. Anyone who reads this will see that the flow goes one way only. You do not trouble yourself to answer entirely reasonable questions, because you are unable to do so honestly. Your professed concern for wildlife is entirely selective, dictated by your own vested interests. You cannot deny it. The proof is here.

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          2. rick - we'll just let everyone decide that for themselves then shall we?

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      2. Amazing Mark, that you simply do not address the problem of cats killing wildlife, not even in the cat owners garden (though that is bad enough), but on my property, in parks, on wildlife reserves, and that of many millions of others. You simply sidestep the issue completely and utterly.
        Neither you or Alick Simmons have the courage to face the problem, and I'm afraid the RSPB, who I believe you worked for, are the same. Do you see how you do not even bother to address the issue? You portray me as the problem. You are the problem, because you are fundamentally utterly dishonest. I do not insult you. I do not "own" an animal which comes on to your land and kills things. You do not show me the same courtesy. That is what you people are like I'm afraid, as you have abundantly demonstrated.

        I have given you and Alick Simmons the chance to tell the truth.
        Again, I ask you: if a dog comes onto your property and kills things, do you accept it? Not once have either you or he addressed that question, let alone attempted to answer it. Why are cats exempted from the law? Again, your silence is deafening.
        I am a dog owner, and my dog does not go onto other people's property to kill things. That is because I respect other people's property, and the wildlife and everything that pertains to it. The cat owners do not, nor do the RSPB. Which bit of that is it you find hard to understand?
        If a farmer threatened to shoot a dog repeatedly killing and worrying his livestock, would you say to him what you have said to me? Answer that please Mark, don't duck it. If you regard deer (or any other wildlife) as different, please explain why.
        As for your predictable comment about shooting, again, do you see how you assume things without the first idea of what you are talking about? For the record, I have never shot a dog, nor would I. You have no idea of my views other than what I have stated here. I do not speak for the shooting lobby, unfortunately for you, because clearly you think you will tar me with that brush. Usually works for you, doesn't it?
        I seek to speak for nature in the way that you and the RSPB, and Alick Simmons, and the BBC, and the Vegan Society pretend to, but do not. I also seek to speak for the millions of ordinary people who want nature in their garden, but do not have it, because it is all killed by cats. They loathe people like you. Why wouldn't they? I know many such people. What do you have to say to them Mark? You have nothing to say. Believe me, I speak for many - not, I repeat, not, the shooting lobby - who loathe the sham conservation organisations who pretend to love wildlife whilst the cats kill it wholesale.
        What do you have to say to them? Again, please answer the charge Mark, don't duck it like your friend Alick, who can't muster an argument to save his life.
        You say I sound charming Mark. An interesting phrase, which perhaps you think will mask the fact that you fail completely to engage in the argument. Of course, what I don't have is a veneer of charm behind which lies something very different. I'm glad of that, and so are those I speak for, who may not be as articulate as me, but have a regard for truth so sadly lacking in people like you (though I still hope you may prove me wrong) and Alick Simmons.
        I look forward to your reply.

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        1. Rick - What was this blog about? Was it about cats? I think not. I don’t feel I have to be dragged into responding to anyone’s comments here.

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          1. Again Mark, you duck the question, as you duck all questions.. The blog was not about cats per se, it was about human relationships with animals across the board. Cats were mentioned by Alick Simmons. Therefore it is an entirely legitimate subject for discussion, especially because, as this has all proved, the hypocrisy involved is truly breathtaking. He keeps cats, yet claims he "does not advocate keeping cats". Why not? If there is nothing wrong with keeping cats, why not?
            It begs a lot of questions, doesn't it? - but you do not trouble yourselves to address them. Anyone who reads this will see how I have tried to engage you in genuine debate, and yet you will not engage. That is no surprise to me. You are of the RSPB. I repeat - they like money much more than nature - hence they simply will not tell the truth about cats. I call people who obtain money under false pretences frauds. What would you call them?
            Clearly, I have been labouring under the delusion that your claim to speak for wild creatures has any legitimacy. You have proved it does not.
            Elsewhere on your website, you talk of the GWCT (I think - Game and wildlife conservancy trust?) misleading the public," a very serious charge for an organisation claiming charitable status", you claim. "Watch this space".
            Watch this space, indeed. I would suggest to you that the RSPB are serial liars and misleaders of the public. They do it all the time. "Let nature sing", they fraudulently cry. How many gardens are quiet as the grave because of cat predation? Not something you people trouble yourselves with, is it Mark?
            If you are still in contact with them, and their legal team, can you see if they will take me to court for defamation? I'm happy to stand up in a court of law, and I won't perjure myself.
            Saw a hobby this morning, Mark, a beautiful bird, at 10.30 as I came out of my workshop, languid, floating, sickle winged, drifting, then gone. We see them every year. We have sparrowhawks here, tawny owls, kestrels, peregrines, buzzards. Occasionally, I've seen a red kite. Was your question about what I do or do not shoot aimed (no pun intended) at raptors? It's hard to know, because not only will you people not only not give a straight answer to a straight question, you will not even ask a straight question. You sort of imply things, nasty things, without even a vestige of evidence. You don't even know if I possess a gun. You just stab in the dark to try and make me look bad, and deflect the attention away from yourselves. That's how you operate, Mark. Read what you have written here, then compare it with what I have written. Where is the attention to detail, where is the serious debate? It is not to be seen on your side of the fence, is it? You will not answer questions. You just won't.
            I made it clear to you that when dogs ran down and killed a roe doe on my property, it was not the first time. One time, I was in the woods working, when these dogs appeared. I managed to get a lead on one of them, and took it back to it's owners. I did not threaten to shoot it then. I was extremely polite to them. What do you do, Mark, when it keeps on happening? I told you what I did, and it worked. I did not have to shoot the dog, because the threat did the job. The people whose dog it was, incidentally, would be hunt supporters, Mark, were hunting legal. They ought to be able to control a dog Mark, wouldn't you say? For the record, Mark, I abhor foxhunting. It disgusts me. Oh dear. There goes another stick you can't beat me with. Still, keep trying Mark. Good luck. I'm a dog owner and lover. I can't imagine shooting a dog. Like Chris Packham, who I admire, on the whole, I prefer them to people. They don't do bullshit, Mark, do they? Unlike human beings.
            Anyway, I wonder if you have ever heard a roe doe being killed by dogs. I was not here when it happened, but a colleague of mine was. He said it sounded like a woman being raped. I told him I knew exactly what it was, so when I got back, as I said, I took the body to the dog owners house. The rest is as I told you. It could have been the husband who answered the door, but it was not. My reaction would have been the same. Do you notice, though, how you make me out to be the villain of the piece. Someone else's dogs come onto my property repeatedly and chase and kill deer, and having previously tried politeness, I lose my rag. My fault, of course, Mark, of course it is. You side with the perpetrator. That is what you are like. That is your default setting. A domestic animal - a dog - kills a wild mammal on my property, and where is Wild Justice situated. Not with me, are you Mark? Read what you yourself said. It should take you around a nanosecond, so in depth is your analysis. Two sentences, is it? Can't remember. Cursory is not the word.
            Hey ho. From one domestic mammal, the dog, back to another, infinitely worse in terms of wildlife predation - the cat. What do you have to say to my friend Huw, in a wheelchair with MS, a nature lover. No wildlife in his garden now Mark, all killed by his neighbour's cats? A colony of sparrows, red listed, gone. All wildlife, gone. You have nothing to say to him Mark, do you? You don't trouble yourself with such irrelevant details.
            Or my friend Kev, and his wife and three kids. They too had no wildlife in their garden, all killed by the neighbour's cats. Kev's a salt of the earth bloke Mark, a top bloke. He loves nature. He does all he can to preserve it, works in conservation. Not at the top end like you, Mark. He works at the coal face, like me. He wants his children to experience nature - but they don't, in their own garden, because it's all killed by cats. You don't want to hear his opinion of you and your ilk Mark, you really don't. It's not because he's not charming (to use your vacuous phrase). He just hates hypocrites and liars who pretend to stand up for nature, but actually stand with the cat owners. He really loathes them. Why wouldn't he?
            What about my friend Susy? Her husband is a wildlife photographer, and they both do huge amounts for wildlife. It is their life, as it is mine, and Kev's, and so many others whose voice goes unheard. Their garden is both a sanctuary for wildlife, and part of her husband's studio. He sets things up so he can try and photograph particular species. That's how he makes his living. Do you think it is legitimate for other people's cats to come into their garden and kill things? Do you Mark? Please answer the question, Mark. Please, Mark. For once in your life, answer the question. Have some guts. show some honesty. Forget about charm - it's very overrated. Honesty is infinitely superior. Try telling the truth for once. All of this wildlife killed by supposedly domestic animals. Wild Justice - a hollow joke, my friend, a hollow joke.
            And Alick Simmons says I "crave attention". Seriously? You think that is why I write to you like this. Seriously? Do you?
            Regards,

            Rick.

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    2. This as yet incomplete series of posts are designed to help others see past the polarised positions some people adopt and help them set their own ethical framework based on better information. However, it seems you have already done that. That’s fine.

      I don’t respond well to being insulted or shouted at. This and your frankly unhealthy attitude to cats hasn’t made me change my mind. I am not about to give you the oxygen you so clearly crave. I am sure there other websites that better cater for your values.

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      1. Alick, my attitude to cats is not unhealthy. My values are based entirely around nature and it's preservation. I gave you an open invite to come here and see for yourself, and that still stands. You can see for yourself.

        I object to anyone else claiming to own an animal of any description - cat, dog, anything - which comes onto my property and kills blackbirds (316), starlings, (228), robins (142), house sparrows (961), tree sparrows (27), blue tits (344), water voles (20), field voles (853) bank voles (544), slowworms, (87), toads (23), frogs (545), newt (22), lizard (45), grass snakes (10), wood mouse (1,765) rabbit (1,242), and anything else.

        Think of all those creatures, each with their own right to life, each part of an ecosystem, each from a garden somewhere, from a park, from a nature reserve. All stolen, all taken without legitimacy.

        The numbers in brackets are, of course, those killed by the 986 cats surveyed in Bristol - out of an estimated nine million, so common sense gives you some idea of the scale of predation nationally. The cats existed in a density around 450 times that of a wild predator. Cats do not have to live by the law of nature, as we all know. The predator/prey balance is out of the window. It does not apply. These are facts. Neither you nor Mark Avery can deny them. Cats kill rare and endangered species; they kill fledglings and parent birds (and other fauna) throughout the breeding season. They take young out of the nest, each to die in it's turn. They take them once they've fledged. They do not "kill mostly the sick and injured". What utter rubbish. They are highly adept and efficient hunters, and they kill anything that moves.
        Everything they kill, they steal from a wild predator, tawny owl, sparrowhawk, kestrel, whatever. They destroy the prey base for legitimate predators. In the case of stoats and weasels, they not only kill the prey, they kill the mustelids themselves. They kill all the wildlife in the garden of a man I know who has multiple sclerosis, so is wheelchair bound, and whose main pleasure was to watch wildlife in his garden. There is no wildlife there anymore Alick. It's gone. The colony of house sparrows - gone. Nothing would survive there for long. This is what it is like for ordinary people. This is what they have to put up with. And the RSPB say cats are fine. That is what they say. That is a fact. I have many stories like this, and believe me, they will see the light of day one way or another, no matter how the RSPB and it's allies try to suppress the truth.

        Everything I said here Alick, Mark, is fact. It is not an opinion, not up for discussion; it is empirical fact, and yet you claim my attitude to cats is "unhealthy". You say that I "crave publicity". You actually say that. I ask any neutral, unbiased reader to judge what is healthy and unhealthy in all of this.
        How truly disgraceful you people are to say that I crave publicity. Believe me, I have many, many better things to do with my time than waste it writing to people like you and Mark Avery. The trouble is, if I do not, the RSPB and their allies get away with this scandalous behaviour. We know that we are living in an age of failed politics; but we are also living in an age of failed journalism, of failed religion, of failure on an epic scale, and lying on an epic scale. That is the real problem, and people who think it is just Trump and his ilk we have to watch for are deluding themselves.

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  8. What I particularly like about this blog series is that it seeks to expose the inherent contradictions within all of us towards our treatment/use/exploitation of animals. I appreciate the balanced, gentle approach which is obviously written to enable those of us to flounder when thinking about these issues to think a little more clearly. I suspect that not only are most of us are hypocrites to some extent, but that we also recognise that our behaviours may be contradictory with our understanding of big, complex issues such as animal welfare or climate change. Discussions such as this blog are so valuable in helping us make our own personal choices based on reason and critical thought.

    It's a shame that the comments section has descended into a bit of a farce. Rick seems to be knowledgeable and passionate - and indeed, writes quite entertainingly - but I think is detracting from the point of the blog series. His invitation to see his work is generous, but unlikely to be taken up by anyone. I like to encounter new viewpoints and be challenged. I like to read rigorously researched stuff that's well referenced. If Rick were to write his own blogs or articles then I would quite look forward to reading those. A constructive, critical essay would be a great deal more persuasive than the accusatory tone of many of these comments.

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    1. Thank you. I wouldn’t describe most of us as hypocrites. That’s a bit damning. However, all of us are, I believe, somewhat conflicted. We are not wholly rational in our beliefs and actions.

      My writing has never been described as gentle before. I think that’s a compliment so thank you. I have simply been trained to write carefully, factually and logically.

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      1. Perhaps hypocrite is too strong a word, or not quite the right word. A personal example is knowing and caring about the consequences of carbon emissions, yet still driving into the mountains once a week for recreation. I've made a personal (selfish) decision which is at odds with my core belief that we should reduce/eliminate fossil fuel use. Some of the other commenters have made similar observations about other aspects of our lives. Being self-aware and critical of these contradictions in our behaviour and beliefs is important. I think you could argue one way or the other about how hard on ourselves we should be to reduce these contradictions or hypocrisies.

        Yes, it was intended as a compliment! For a complex, emotive issue, it is nice to read something thoughtful and not be berated with opinions.

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        1. Once again, thank you. I believe you can show concern and act for both the planet and animal welfare without living like a hermit. I haven’t stopped driving or flying although I try to moderate both. Similarly, I have reduced my meat consumption and buy carefully.

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    2. I am indeed knowledgeable, and that is why Mark Avery and Alick Simmons will not engage with me. I don't talk a good game, I live it. So do many others I know, yet their voice goes unheard and is deliberately suppressed by the RSPB and it's allies. Unfortunately for them, I am not going away. On the contrary, this is just the start. I will hold Mark Avery's feet to the fire, and he will not like it. Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Those who profess to hold others to account need to look at themselves first. Cat ownership is itself a form of wildlife crime. I have spoken to people from smaller conservation organisations, and off the record they will criticise cats and cat ownership, and acknowledge that it is a problem; yet they will not say so in public. That is because they will not go against a powerful organisation like the RSPB. How truly, utterly, disgraceful is that?
      As for the idea that I am accusatory and aggressive, I have cited the example of a friend of mine who has MS and is in a wheelchair. He and his wife have no wildlife in their garden, because other people's cats kill it all. Thus he is deprived of one of the few pleasures still available to him, because of the sheer selfish uncaring attitude of those who make the choice to keep cats. I do not ask others to pay a price for my keeping a dog, and if I were foolish enough to do so, the law would soon deal with me. The cat owners, and Mark Avery, and Alick Simmons, do not trouble themselves with such details of common decency. Again I make the point that my friend Huw and his wife had a thriving colony of house sparrows in their garden, which are now gone. House sparrows are redlisted.
      You will see that I have made two valid points which Mark Avery, Alick Simmons, and the RSPB refuse to address. If they were genuinely on the side of nature, as they pretend to be, and of those who love nature and want to see it, then they would address these basic points, but you will be unable to avoid noticing that they do not.
      Again, I call the RSPB frauds and liars, based on what I have said here. Their words and actions do not match. They simply do not. The RSPB are fundamentally dishonest, and are happy to betray genuine conservationists and our native wildlife, for their own financial gain, when their self-described remit is to protect wildlife. Enough said, don't you think? I have repeatedly asked them to answer the charges I have made, and yet they will not. Instead, they try to damn me by implication. They will not catch me out, because I am not lying, and I have nothing to hide. Neither of those statements holds true for them. I rest my case.

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      1. rick - I'm not engaging with you because you are rude about me and have tried to hijack discussion onto one issue that I'm not incredibly interested in and which is tangential to the subject of this blog post which wasn't written by me anyway.

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        1. I've made my point Mark. I am not rude about you. I seek to call you to account as you seek to call others to account; yet they standards to which you hold them are not standards to which you yourself adhere. I also asked you to subject me to the same scrutiny to which have I attempted to hold you. I do not exempt myself from being held to account. I have nothing to fear from you, because I have nothing to hide. You do. I do not expect to mark my own homework. You do. You and Alick Simmons exist in a little bubble of self-congratulatory people who do not ask hard questions of yourselves. The proof is here Mark. If you think I am going away, think again. This is just the start. I gave you the example of my friend Huw, and his wife. He is in a wheelchair with MS. All the wildlife in their garden is killed by cats. If you had a moral, honest bone in your body, you would condemn this, but you don't. That is because the RSPB is in the pocket of the cat lobby. Enough said.

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          1. rick - you've said that before and it didn't make any sense the first time. Duplicate comments won't be posted. You do know, don't you, that I left the RSPB over eight years ago?

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