Wednesday, February 01, 2006


Cats, dogs and other family pets are to have five statutory "freedoms" enshrined in law - and owners who flout the regulations could face jail or a fine of up to 5,000 pounds after a visit from the "pet police". The Times has learnt that Margaret Beckett, the Environment Secretary, is to produce detailed codes of conduct telling pet owners how to feed their animals and where they should go to the toilet, along with ways of providing "mental stimulation". Owners of "sociable" pets should provide them with playmates, the codes will say. Every domesticated animal will have a code of conduct tailored to their species, each of which is expected to run into dozens of pages. This will form part of the Animal Welfare Bill, expected to clear Parliament in the next few months.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will inform the owners of Britain's ten million cats, eight million dogs and one million rabbits of their new obligations in a series of pamphlets distributed to vets, pet shops, kennels and over the internet. The first code of conduct, produced for cat owners, has been obtained by The Times. The 18-page A4 document, drafted for MPs scrutinising the Bill, warns cat owners of the dangers of dogs. It reads: "Dogs should be introduced to cats very carefully. The dog should be on a lead at first so that it cannot chase the cat." Although any breach of these codes is not an offence in itself, failure to observe elements of the code will count against defendants in court.

The five freedoms laid down by the Animal Welfare Bill are: appropriate diet, suitable living conditions, companionship or solitude as appropriate, monitoring for abnormal behaviour and protection from pain, suffering, injury and disease. The law will be enforced by "pet police"; council employees with powers to enter property and seize animals. This is a significant shift from the present situation, where prosecutors have to prove a domestic animal is being mistreated.

The Bill, which has crossparty support and is expected to return to the floor of the Commons in March, also bans the docking of dogs' tails and pets being won as prizes by anyone aged under 16. Bill Wiggin, the Shadow Agriculture Minister who is seeing the Bill through committee stage, wants the legislation amended so that first-time offenders get a written warning. "There will be a lot of information in these codes of conduct and people who don't read them properly may fall foul of the law," he said. Janet Nunn, chief executive of the Pet Care Trust, said that owners should keep all vets' bills and other documentation to prove that they were looking after the animal properly.

Ben Bradshaw, the Animal Welfare Minister, said: "The vast majority of pet owners have nothing to fear from this legislation." The Bill increases the time in which a prosecutor can bring a case from six months to three years. Pet shops may bring in a register of animals sold, with customers signing to signify they are above the age of 16 and have been given care advice. The Bill applies to all vertebrates, but a code of conduct for invertebrates, such as lobsters, may follow. The Government has said it is an "enabling" Bill, which allows further rules to be drawn up under secondary legislation.


Political Correctness kills

(Post lifted from Stephen Pollard)

"I cannot recommend Anthony Browne's new book, 'The Retreat of Reason: Political correctness and the corruption of public debate in modern Britain', too highly. Unlike many attacks on political correctness, it doesn't trivialise the issue with reference to silly examples, but deals with the real damage that the pc mindset and consequent lack of thinking does.

It's well worth reading all the book (which you can download here) but I think one of the strongest sections is when he deals with HIV. I reprint it all, because it is important that it gets as wide an airing as possible, and will hopefully prompt you to download and read the entire book:

"It was a trivial event-the non-appearance of a pre-recorded interview on the BBC Radio 4's Today prog-ramme-that sparked the train of thought that led to this pamphlet. It wasn't just that the interview with me was dropped-an act of mercy on the listeners-but the contrast with the interview with a government minister that appeared in its place. The episode was an example of the increasingly frequent avoidance of public debate in Britain-the `politics of denial'-which is more than just a betrayal of the British public.

The absence of debate also led the government to announcing an inappropriate policy that would do nothing to tackle the problems it was aimed at. There was a conspiracy not so much of silence but of denial that stretched across the media and government from the lowest civil servants and reporters to the highest ministers and interviewers. There was endemic dishonesty towards the public, but because everyone was in denial to each other, few realised it because their virtual reality had become the widely acknowledged truth.

This received wisdom was in fact easy to disprove-it just required looking at some government tables-but everyone had an emotional investment in not disproving it. The collective denial so enveloped the media-political elite that they had little idea how detached their world-view was from reality. When I started putting the truth out in the public domain, I was met with an almost universally intolerant and intellectually dishonest response by people who preferred political correctness over factual correctness.

Even many of those who realised the intellectual honesty of what I had been reporting were unable to accept it emotionally, because for most people when intellect and emotion conflict, emotion wins.

The interview on the Today programme was on a highly sensitive subject-the exponential rise of HIV in Britain since Labour was elected in 1997. Figures from the government's Public Health Laboratory Service were being published showing a 25 per cent rise in just one year, with almost all the increase being among heterosexuals. The government and media had been warning for years about the dangers of the new complacency among heterosexuals, ever since the number of heterosexual cases had swept past the number of homosexual ones, a well reported and much commented-on phenomenon.

The government minister was responding on the Today programme to the latest increase with a new sexual health campaign telling people to practice safe sex. If teenagers would just wear condoms, it would put a stop to the rise. But the trouble is that the increase in HIV had virtually nothing to do with British people practicing unsafe sex-it was almost all the result of HIV positive people (mainly Africans) coming to the UK, and being diagnosed with HIV once here.

I first wrote about the issue in a front page story in The Times, announcing that African immigration had overtaken gay sex as the main source of new HIV cases in Britain, according to government figures. The government's epidemiologists with whom I had worked on the story had been worried about the reaction.

They needn't have bothered. The reaction was incredulity. Clearly, in most people's minds, the story couldn't be true-everyone knew the increase in HIV was because of complacent and promiscuous Britons. The Department of Health's director of communication, when I spoke to her about it, clearly thought I was bonkers -she was launching this safe sex campaign because everyone knew the rise in HIV was the result of unsafe sex. The only people who phoned me up to thank me about it were HIV doctors, who lived in the real world, not the politically correct virtual one. Their patients were now predominantly (and sometimes exclusively) African immigrants, and yet no one was talking about it.

Some doctors told me that when they had tried to bring it up in public with their local health authorities, they had just been shouted at. One of the government's own medical advisers phoned me up secretly from within the Department of Health thanking me for highlighting the issue, and urging me to carry on: Britain was facing a massive explosion in HIV and ministers and civil servants simply refused to discuss the cause of it. `Ministers just won't listen because they think it is racist' he said, `but the public deserve at least honesty.'

Even when the truth became intellectually commonly accepted, media outlets such as the Guardian and BBC carried on reporting dishonest accounts, presumably because they had such deeply held emotional beliefs in the issue that they couldn't bring themselves to write honestly about it. A cover story I wrote for the Spectator was directly attacked by a news story in my old paper the Observer, whose desire to disprove what I had written trumped their inability to do so.

In fact, although their tone was often somewhat sensational, the most intellectually honest media outlets tended to be Britain's much maligned tabloid media. It isn't the only time that Britain's tabloids, so hated by the left, have actually been the torch-bearers for truth by daring to write deeply uncomfortable things that others refuse to.

Two years after my front page story in The Times, the denial about the whole issue of HIV finally crumbled. The Public Health Laboratory Service now openly reports that African immigration is the main cause of new HIV in Britain, and even left-wing media are enabled to report it.

One person told me that, even if it is true that the HIV epidemic is driven by African immigration, it shouldn't be written about because it will just fuel racism.

But the result of that conspiracy of silence is that the government follows a policy that does absolutely nothing to combat the growth of HIV in the UK. Tackling the epidemic will fuel racism far less than allowing African immigration to spark an HIV explosion, a development allowed by government policy which is a political gift to the racist British National Party.

The one definite benefit is that the lives of HIV positive immigrants are saved. But if the cost of NHS treatment were spent in Africa, not the UK, it would save between 10 and 100 times more lives. There is also the human cost: the HIV epidemic that is being imported from Africa is now being transmitted within the UK. In fact, the majority of people who contract HIV from heterosexual sex in Britain are actually catching it from having sex with HIV positive African immigrants. In total, nearly 1,000 people have caught HIV from infected immigrants since Labour came to power, ironically finally giving a rationale to the government's safe sex campaign. That's 1,000 lives blighted, ultimately, by political correctness. Those who defend political correctness must accept that it can come at a heavy price"

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