BOOKS: Animal Welfare

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 2001:
Animal Welfare by Colin Spedding
Earthscan (120 Pentonville Road, London N1 9JN, U.K.), 2000.
187 pages, paperback; £12.95.

Apparently authored as a text for courses in veterinary and agricultural ethics, Animal Welfare by Colin Spedding competes for market share with Veterinary Ethics, edited by Gilles Legood, published by Continuum and reviewed in
the November 2000 edition of ANIMAL PEOPLE. The books extensively overlap.

Spedding, says the back cover of Animal Welfare , “has worked in animal welfare for over 30 years, including 10 years as chair of the Farm Animal Welfare Council. He is emeritus professor at the University of Reading, and deputy chair of the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals.”

This gives him a credible overview, but perhaps not in the same depth in all areas as the anthology contributors assembled by Legood. And Spedding often mangles facts, to the detriment of his discussion. For example, Spedding describes the prolonged confinement of pregnant mares for the collection of their urine, the base material for
the estrogen supplement Premarin. But he identifies the substance collected, called PMU for short, with “pregnant mare’s serum,” which would be a blood product. Then Spedding asserts that this product is known by the abbreviation “PMS,” actually the abbreviation for one of the conditions that PMU is used to treat.

Earlier, Spedding says “some experts,” whom he does not identiy, claim that Americans abandon 50 million cats per year. This would require Americans to abandon, each year, as many cats as entered animal shelters back when
shelter entries peaked, plus the highest credible estimate ever produced of the total feral cat population, making an implicit assumption that no feral cat ever lives long enough to reproduce.

Estimating cat abandonment at such a high level would also require assuming that five out of six owned cats will be abandoned within one year. Spedding also seems skeptical of vegetarians, and favorable toward hunting. Yet Spedding repeats many times that whatever advantage humans get from causing an animal to suffer is irrelevant in considering the welfare of the animal. It is possible that many institutions which would reject Veterinary Ethics as “radical” (although it isn’t) may be willing to teach Animal Welfare, and that in such places it will do significant good.

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