Nanny State 911

November 5, 2008 at 5:22 pm 4 comments

This just in from The Telegraph:

“Absurd” new guidelines advise pet owners against allowing dogs to beg at the table
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Failing to notive your dog is getting fat, feeding it at the table and chocolate treats are all animal cruelty that could end up putting someone in jail under new government guidelines.
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It also recommends that dogs should not be fed at the table as this can lead to begging – and that “curious” animals such as cats should be kept away from windows or tumble dryers.
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[...]
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Hilary Benn, the Environment Secretary, said the new laws afford animals “greater protection than ever before”. Launching the eight-week consultation, Mr Benn said: “These three new codes of practice will outline the responsibilities of owners under the Act and give practical advice on how to fulfil them. This means no one will be able to claim ignorance as an excuse for mistreating any animal.”
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[...]Bill Wiggin, the Tory spokesman on animal welfare, said the new codes are “absurd”.
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“Defra has missed the opportunity to produce a set of sensible proposals that would protect animals from abuse and mistreatment. Here we have this ridiculous guide which tells people not to walk their dog in the heat of the day or feed it at the table. DEFRA are taking people for fools.”

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I’m not sure which part of this story scares me more – the idea that the British government feels entitled to micro-manage the lives of its subjects - or the idea that a frighteningly large number of pet owners appear to have become so far separated from the world of animal husbandry that they now need detailed instruction manuals to care for their pets.

But wait – maybe these aren’t really two different issues…

In a related, and even more alarming, note BBC Newsreports (note, the bolding is mine):

Animal welfare minister Barry Gardiner said: “For the first time ever, there will be legislation to stop the suffering of pet animals before it occurs.  “By allowing early intervention this Act works on the principle that prevention is better than cure.”
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So now the goal of government is to prevent crimes before they occur?  God Save our friends in the UK. And if these kinds of totalitarian ideals spread – God Save us all.

How on earth did we get here? I mean, I understand that avoiding risk is an adaptive trait. We’re hard-wired for it, but this current obsession to avoid allrisk is rapidly turning into a form of mass psychosis… and our governments have, quite literally, become world class enablers – not just encouraging, but now also legislating, the self-destructive spiral of decreasing personal irresponsibility and increasing bureaucratic control.

There is an increasing expectation that the government should must  take care of us and protect us from all  risk and danger.  The government is now viewed by many as a necessary force to protect the value of our homes, prevent our corporations from going bankrupt and save us from buying, using, eating or even doing any thing that poses risk.

When we substitute governmental protection for personal responsibility, we become more and more willing to cede our personal freedoms as we seek the mythical dream of life without risk. Bit by bit we give up things we see as minor freedoms ‘to acheive a higher good’ – after all – who in their right mind objects to making the world a better safer place?

But where will this incremental process lead us?  In a thoughful essay published at Strike the Root, Lee McCracken writes:

The thought that government will look after them has made too many people willing to give up on looking after themselves. People are tempted to use government to shift the costs of their own actions onto others, resulting in an increasingly irresponsible populace, and a riskier world. If someone else is picking up the tab, why not order the steak? When people are forced to bear the costs of their own behavior themselves, they tend to make more rational choices, which actually does result in a less risky world. The attempt to use government to stamp out risk is like dousing a fire with oil.

But the strongest argument against the omnipotent Nanny State is that it leads logically to totalitarianism. The only way to completely eliminate risk would be total control of every aspect of life. After all, virtually anything we do in any area of our lives could involve some potential risk, either to ourselves or to others. Eliminating all such risk would require surveillance and regulation beyond the dreams of all the tyrants in history. After all, this kind of control is for our own good. As C. S. Lewis once put it:

Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies, The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

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Entry filed under: animal rights, bsl, dogs. Tags: , , .

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Rosemary  |  November 6, 2008 at 11:13 am

    Nearly everyone in the British animal protection movement would probably agree that the cat and dog codes are a bit OTT (they seem to be an attempt to make animal welfare regulation more uniform across the board on the grounds that there are welfare codes for agricultural animals, so why not for pets as well).

    The bit about stopping suffering before it occurs really IS important – although it’s probably more relevant to equines than to dogs and cats.

    Under the old 1911 Act it was impossible to take action against an owner who didn’t feed animals until they were really significantly underweight – if you Google old UK news articles you’ll see lots of furious complaints on the lines of “we reported this and the b***s said they couldn’t take any action because the horses weren’t thin enough”.

    Under the 2006 Act it’s sufficient to prove that animals had been left without food and/or water for an unreasonable length of time.

    There are also powers to issue improvement notices which should make it possible to avoid things getting to the point where an owner who is incompetent rather than cruel ends up in court.

  • 2. Paul  |  November 6, 2008 at 11:09 pm

    Why is ‘I HATE HTML’ hidden all through your post?

  • 3. SmartDogs  |  November 7, 2008 at 1:21 am

    LOL! Because I know little or nothing about html and was having a TERRIBLE time inserting a %78$&# blank line between paragraphs in this post for some reason (I’ve never had that problem before).

    My *creative* solution to the problem was to put that line of text (in white like my background) each place I needed a blank line…. hoping that no one would notice it.

    Obviously, I’m even more clueless than I thought.

  • 4. Caveat  |  November 8, 2008 at 3:35 am

    I can’t see the placeholder because I’m not viewing in html or because my monitor isn’t picking it up. Good solution!

    Can you not compose in rtf, most blog packages allow that.

    These regulations are very frightening – because once again, the personal beliefs of zealots are being imposed on the majority. It all starts in the UK, you know.

    This is exactly how all this nonsense got started – breed bans, mandatory neutering, pet limits, etc, you know – the stuff that keeps us all up at night worrying about the future of our friends the dogs (and others). It’s all the product of hard-core animal rights fanatics with their irrational ideology making more headway each year using fear-mongering, outright lies and emotional marketing techniques to sell the public..

    They are basically in your house now, telling you how to treat family members. It is not inconceivable that each household will be assigned a government nanny to ensure that everybody shelves their books correctly, eats only govt-approved foods, listens to govt-approved music, makes the bed with hospital corners – it’s a nightmarish prospect.

    Can we turn it off now? I get it.

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