The Social Affairs Unit

Print Version • Website Home • Weblog Home

Use the buttons below to change the style and font size of our site.
Screen version     Print version:   
December 18, 2005

EU Chemicals Directive: The Full Absurdity of the Initial Proposal

Posted by Harry Phibbs

As the EU is set to somewhat water down its proposed EU Chemicals Directive - meaning that many chemicals will have to be retested, but not as many as first proposed - Harry Phibbs examines the full absurdity of the initial proposal.

The suggestion that left wing agitprop merchants are outrageous hypocrites is not new. Paul Johnson devoted a whole book, Intellectuals, to the double standards of prominent left wing thinkers when it came to their private lives. They will grab any worthy cause and be ruthlessly selective in advocating it. Amnesty International (run by Ken Livingstone's ex-girlfriend Kate Allen) devotes more space in its annual report to human rights abuses in the UK than in Cuba. For years Guardianistas would demand freedom of information but insist that it was "inappropriate" for parents to be allowed to see school league tables.

But one of the most shocking examples is the animal rights lobby. Most obviously this applies to their success in outlawing hunting. There has long been exasperation among huntsmen seeking to justify their method of killing foxes that opponents of hunting refuse to accept that the alternative is not to allow the foxes to live but to kill them using a more cruel method. The exasperation is based on the assumption that the Government which has banned hunting, and those who have cheered it on, are sincerely motivated by a concern for animal welfare.

I suspect that most opponents of hunting have little interest in the necessity (not least for the sake of other animals) of controlling the fox population. Nor have they seriously concluded that trapping, gassing, poisoning or shooting would represent a less cruel death for the fox than being ripped to pieces by hounds within seconds. The antis are more interested in humans than foxes. They are interested in what people wear when they kill foxes, whether they enjoy it, whether the method is traditional and props up the class system by sustaining social harmony. They are concerned with modernisation, are embarrassed by British history and motivated by envy and disdain for the toffs whom they are anxious to humble - to show who is boss now. None of these considerations are particularly relevant to the fox.

Similarly I suspect that much of the campaigning against animal testing is motivated by hatred of capitalism more than love of animals. The focus has been on trying to drive private companies which operate animal laboratories out of business - to target the homes of company directors, to dig up the bones of their grannies. Having lost the general argument over the merits of capitalism as an economic system, the anti-capitalists have not just given up. They have looked around for new ways to undermine capitalism. One way is for them to argue that getting rid of capitalism is not an end in itself but a means to an end - a means to, for example, safeguard animal welfare, or prevent obesity, or whatever it happens to be this week. Any stick to beat the dog.

While such legal and illegal campaigning about animal rights has been under way little has been heard from the lobby about a vast programme of entirely unnecessary animal testing. The reason is that the animal testing is not part of a free market drive to produce ever larger profits, with, for example, an ever wider choice of cosmetics.

The animal testing programme I have in mind is anti-capitalist. It comes under the recent EU Chemicals Directive that originally proposed - now somewhat watered down - the retesting of a vast range of chemicals, even those which have been in common household use for many years with no ill-effects.

One of the justifications for animal testing is that it will help to advance economic growth. This has all sorts of beneficial consequences not least for animal welfare. Anyone who has seen emaciated cattle and horses in countries like Cuba would see this point. Furthermore the richer we get at home the more likely we are to spend a few pence extra for food that was not factory farmed.

The EU imposed animal testing can, however, only retard economic growth by imposing a huge burden on business. It is estimated that up to 10 million animals will die as a consequence, while as many as 50 million will be tested altogether. It is the largest animal testing programme in history.

To be fair there have been efforts, which continue, to modify the plan. Last year the Daily Telegraph reported:

The proposal is so self-evidently bonkers that it could have been an April fool, since it opened the prospect of force-feeding thousands of captive rodents with things like salt and vinegar until they burst, at vast expense to the industry. The commission itself put the cost at over 30 billion. Intensive lobbying from all sides has cut that by 10 billion so far but (as she doesn't say) that's across the whole of Europe, and the Commission has still not formally withdrawn its barmy proposal. We can only hope it does.

While the British Government may lobby to limit its worst excesses, parliament will be obliged to approve it on the nod. A less craven approach by our Government would be to state quite firmly that we refuse to implement this needless animal cruelty and challenge them to expel us from the EU.

After all, this is not the only example of the EU adopting policies detrimental to animal welfare. The Common Agricultural Policy is notorious for its subsidies rewarding intensive farming. As John Courouble, Director of Youth for a Free Europe, has said:

It is because of the EU that Britain cannot act against live exports of cattle, and the EU's Common Agricultural Policy provides subsidies to those breeding bulls to be used for bullfighting on the same terms as those raising dairy cattle.
Harry Phibbs is a journalist.

Comments Notice
This comments facility is the property of the Social Affairs Unit.
We reserve the right to edit, amend or remove comments for legal reasons, policy reasons or any other reasons we judge fit.

By posting comments here you accept and acknowledge the Social Affairs Unit's absolute and unfettered right to edit your comments as set out above.
Post a comment

Anti-spambot Turing code

Creative Commons License
Except where otherwise noted, this site is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

The Social Affairs Unit's weblog Privacy Statement