Animal exports; a moral dilemma

A ban on the export of live cattle, sheep, goats and deer from New Zealand will come into force this month, following years of campaigning by the SPCA backed by widespread public support. But we are having a general election in October 2023, and the National and Act parties have stated that if they come into power, live animal exports will be started again.

This practice is both cruel and unnecessary. A position statement from the SPCA has described the stressors on animals undergoing sea voyages lasting weeks or months: fear and anxiety, exposure to disease, overcrowding, overheating, motion sickness and more. Some animals die on board, and in 2020 almost 6,000 drowned when a livestock container ship en route from New Zealand to Saudi Arabia sank off the coast of Japan. And, depending on the adequacy of health and welfare in the destination countries, animals may be subjected to further suffering when they arrive.

There are alternatives to live export. Animals for food could be slaughtered here and their refrigerated carcasses exported. For breeding purposes, semen and embryos rather than live animals can be used.

This issue presents me with a moral dilemma. I don’t want to see the Labour Party returned again; since they have been in government New Zealand has gone backwards with falling standards in healthcare and education, increased poverty and crime, increased racial divisions, billions of dollars wasted on idealistic projects which have never been completed. Until now I had been firmly intending to vote for either National or Act, but how can I justify supporting a party which will reinstate live animal exports? Several letters published in the NZ Herald newspaper, including one from me, have expressed this dilemma. I have written to the party leaders, and my local MP, to protest the policy and I hope that if enough other people do the same they will revoke it. If not, is the only answer not to vote at all?

Books I’ve enjoyed #13

The current interest in issues of gender identity prompted me to read Radclyffe Hall’s autobiographical novel The Well of Loneliness, which was banned after its publication in 1928 but is now regarded as a classic. It is about a girl born in the late Victorian era to a wealthy family living on a country estate near Malvern. Despite being biologically female, ever since early childhood her appearance and behaviour has been obviously masculine. Although her parents feel greatly puzzled and concerned by her condition they never speak of it. When she grows up and falls passionately in love with another woman, her mother is forced to acknowledge her nature, and rejects her as “a sin against creation”. During later life in London and Paris she achieves success as a novelist and forms a loving relationship with a younger woman, but is eventually unable to withstand society’s condemnation of “inverts”. Nowadays her condition would be more widely accepted and she would be a candidate for sex reassignment surgery. This sad book contains sensitive descriptions of the main character’s tribulations, and of English country life as it used to be.

I listened to the audiobook version of Prince Harry’s memoir Spare. It is well written (by a ghost writer) and Harry narrates it fluently, He comes over as a fun loving but often troubled man whose most positive experiences have been his army service, his charity work with wounded veterans, and falling in love with Meghan. Although the text contains plenty of interesting material, it is pervaded by the author’s sense of victimhood, entitlement, hatred of the press and resentment towards the royal family. I feel these attitudes can only partly be justified by the trauma of losing his mother when he was eleven years old, terrible though that must have been. We await the next episodes of his life story.

Clare Chamber’s novel Small Pleasures is set in the suburbs of London during the 1950s. Jean is a middle-aged unmarried woman who works as a journalist on a local newspaper and lives with her demanding elderly mother. Her drab existence is enlivened after she begins research for a feature about a young girl who is allegedly the product of a virgin birth. The details of Jean’s domestic life, and the development of her character as she becomes emotionally involved with the girl and her parents, are engagingly described in a style reminiscent of Elizabeth Taylor or Barbara Pym. It must have been difficult to devise a satisfactory ending to the story and the last few chapters are not up to the standard of the earlier ones. Despite this criticism I very much enjoyed the book.