Following the debate on the Burns inquiry, a group of veterinary
surgeons, under the leadership of Dr Lewis Thomas and Professor
Twink Allen, have prepared a working paper entitled "A Veterinary
opinion on hunting with hounds" which examines the welfare implications
of hunting and its alternatives. Dr Thomas’ group consists of nearly
300 Members of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, including a
number of leading animal welfare experts and pathologists with incomparable
experience in the field of animal welfare.
Their conclusions make it perfectly clear that they do not view hunting
as causing the infliction of unnecessary suffering and, furthermore,
highlight the animal welfare dangers of legislation that has made
it a criminal offence.
has based his
a paper published
1996 in the
academic journal Animal Welfare. It is reassuring
to read that
this has been
backed up by
work. In the
and Jane Hurst,
that to discover
whether an animal
is likely to
you need to
ask if adaptation
to deal with
If it has, then
the risk of
not be nearly
as great as
might be imagined.
it is necessary
how the population
its own survival
that in situations
where a human
an animal population
cannot be assumed
to suffer if
in fact natural
them to function
in that particular
should not be
that a rabbit
fleeing a fox
It is operating
rabbit has developed
cope with the
and is not suffering.
This would also apply to a fox in places where foxes have been hunted
that animals may not suffer when running away from predators because
it is a contingency that natural adaptation has adapted them to deal
say that an animal may experience the subjective state of "fear", but that just tells it to run, just as "hunger" tells it
to eat. Fear and hunger only lead to suffering when the animal's
adaptive responses fail to assuage them.
is triggered when the world
frustrates an animal's adaptive drives.
They go on to state that this subtle distinction
is a crucial one that has been neglected by animal welfare
campaigners weak on evolutionary theory.
Behavioural assessments and physiological measurements
such as blood pressure,stress hormone levels and the strength of the
immune system are used to assess stress levels. But can you be sure
that you will be able to interpret behaviours which seem to reveal what
the animal is feeling correctly?
In Ancient Greece, Epicureans thought that any
pain caused suffering in all animals. Stoics, on the other hand, "thought
that pain only mattered as a sign of some impediment to natural functioning".
They reasoned that animals were concerned only with maintaining their
existence and their kind. Stoics pointed out that animals didn't shrink
from inflicting pain on themselves in pursuit of their natural ends.
Some zoologists have suggested that the painful subjective
experiences we call suffering evolved to alert animals to a state of
emergency and trigger evasive action. They argue that whether or not
these actions are frustrated, those responsible for animal welfare cannot
ignore them. But Hurst and Barnard downplay the role of subjective feelings.
They state that "Many 'bad' feelings will simply reflect an internal
gauge which animals use to regulate damage within adaptive bounds".
Robin Dunbar, professor of psychology at the University
of Liverpool, who sympathises with Barnard and Hurst's approach, says
" People's conception of what is good for animals tends to be the
cat on a mat sort of thing, rather than seeing things from the animal's
point of view." People have an anthropomorphic concept of suffering
and fail to "see things from the animal's point of view".
Barnard says that "Animals suffer only when they are being forced
to perform outside their design criteria." That is if they are
treated in a way that evolution didn't intend or when there has not
been time for the population to have adapted to a new set of circumstances.
It seems that a number of eminent
zoologists agree that animal breeds that have been farmed for centuries
(E.g. cows) can be expected to have adapted to, say, being housed
in barns and, therefore, do not suffer under the conditions to which
they are subjected. Similarly, wild animals (E.g. foxes) that
have been hunted for centuries can be expected to have adapted
to being hunted by dogs and, therefore, although under great stress
while being hunted do not suffer mentally during the hunt. In a phrase "do not confuse
stress and suffering".