중앙데일리

Why do some people oppose enhanced animal welfare?

Sept 11,2007
Dog fighting is illegal in most OECD countries and many of them have tougher standards for animal welfare than Korea. [JoongAng Ilbo]
In the current negotiations for a free trade agreement between South Korea and the European Union (EU), the EU demanded that South Korea recognize animal welfare for animals used for food. Animal welfare refers to the viewpoint that humans need to protect animals’ basic rights and minimize the suffering of animals used for food, work, companionship or research.
What is animal welfare, why is it being promoted and why do some argue against it?
The dictionary definition of welfare is a happy life. Animal welfare is a viewpoint that seeks to guarantee the well-being and happiness of animals. Proponents of animal welfare accede to the use of animals for human needs but humans in turn have to treat animal’s with respect and dignity, preventing undue suffering.
The foundation of animal welfare as a moral responsibility was laid by British philosopher Jeremy Bentham, who argued that there is no reason to treat animals differently from humans.
Scholars espousing animal welfare suggest five freedoms of animals to be protected: freedom from thirst, hunger and malnutrition; freedom from discomfort due to the environment; freedom from pain, injury and disease; freedom to exhibit normal behavior for the species; and freedom from fear and distress.
In this context, the Italian capital, Rome, has banned goldfish bowls and made regular dog-walking mandatory under a new by-law legislated in 2005. According to the Roman daily Il Messaggero, round bowls cause fish to go blind. Reuters has reported that many fish experts say round bowls provide insufficient oxygen for fish. Italy also passed a law mandating jail sentences for people who abandon cats or dogs.
The EU demanded that South Korea improve the welfare of livestock raised in farms. For example, henhouses need to be enlarged from the current 23 to 33 square meters and chickens should not be put under stress within 48 hours before slaughter.
According to an official participating in the negotiations, the EU argues that EU countries feed and slaughter livestock following standards of animal welfare, which raise overall production costs. The EU claims that when both sides open their markets, EU farmers will be significantly disadvantaged as South Korean livestock produced at lower costs would be exported in large quantities to EU countries.
Meanwhile, animal welfare has been attracting increasing public attention due to the spread of the well-being fad among Koreans.
“The quality of pork is enhanced if a pig is raised in a better environment,” said Kim Doo-hwan, a professor of the animal resources technology at Jinju National University. “In particular, how much stress an animal undergoes during 48 hours before slaughter determines meat quality.”
In July, Pulmuone, one of the country’s leading food product manufacturers, announced that it would adopt the standards of animal welfare in producing eggs, milk, and meats.
“To provide environmentally-friendly food, we will set up regulations for suitable water, feed and environment for livestock and put a special mark on the products produced under such circumstances,” said an official at the company.
Animal welfare protection was initiated in 1876 in the United Kingdom by the passing of the Cruelty to Animals Act.

Since the 1990s, the U.K. government has approved laws to ensure animal welfare for farm animals, concluding that factory farms which raise large numbers of animals in confinement was a cause of epidemic diseases harming animals as well as humans, such as mad cow disease.
Last year, the Animal Welfare Act to provide much greater protection for animals came into force in Korea. The law stipulates that it is the duty of pet owners to do all that is reasonable to ensure the welfare of animals in their care.
Switzerland also has laws to minimize the use of electric prods on animals to be slaughtered, as it would cause significant stress to the animals. In the United States laws ban moving farm animals in the slaughterhouse at a speed faster than the animals’ walking pace.
South Korea approved its Animal Protection Laws in 1991. Recent revision laws were passed and will go into effect next year.
“The revision laws limit the animals under protection to some vertebrates but the list of the animals covered by the laws needs to be expanded,” said Cho Hee-gyeong, chairwoman of the Korea Animal Welfare Association. “To realize animal welfare, detailed regulations and provisions of the laws should be revised as well.”
But some critics argue that protecting animal welfare is not appropriate, since one-sixth of the world’s population, or 1 billion people, live on less than one dollar a day. Ensuring animal welfare creates extra expenses.
“If we adopt the standards for animal welfare, we need 1.28 times more land for raising pigs and 2.25 times more land for cows,” said an official at the joint research team of the South Jeolla Provincial Government and the Rural Development Administration.
With increased expenses adding to production costs, the price burden on consumers would naturally increase.


By Jang Wook JoongAng Ilbo [soejung@joongang.co.kr]





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