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Animals Watch Out, There's a Human About

31/07/2015 12:49 BST | Updated 30/07/2016 10:59 BST

Cecil the Lion sounds like the title of a Disney film and his demise at the hands of the Driller Killer (Copyright N. Ferrari) has caused the nation, nay, the world to burst into tears and yank the three-ply from the nearest box of tissues.

Let me state from the outset that I do not agree with the hunting of animals, I find the trophies that are made of them revolting, I do not go to zoos as I think they are cruel and I buy organic meat, eggs and dairy specifically because I think the animals involved will probably have had a better life.

On that last one, I am virtually alone. Only five percent of us in the UK buy organic milk or eggs, just 4.5% of turnover is organic, even in Waitrose, which is the market leader, and those that do buy organic are almost never doing so because of animal welfare.

The stated reasons for buying organic, as revealed by a survey by the Soil Association puts animal welfare seventh out of nine responses, after healthier, fewer chemicals, naturalness, the environment, safer and taste. Just 10% of the 5% who buy organic are doing so because they care about the animals.

The other 95% who do not buy organic state that they do not do so overwhelmingly because of price. That is a lie. They can afford it, they just choose to spend their money on themselves instead.

An organic egg is about ten pence more expensive than a battery farmed one. Are the vast majority who choose not to buy organic really trying to convince themselves that they can't afford that extra 10p? Might those same people also have a smart phone, a car, Sky TV, holidays? It's not price, it's that we just don't care how our food is produced and what the animals go though to get dinner on our plate.

The argument about the killer of Cecil being somehow morally wrong compared to the rest of us is predicated upon the pleasure that hunter got from his kill and the endangered nature of the animal he killed.

As for the pleasure part, we only eat meat because it gives us pleasure. No-one needs to eat meat. The world would be a much better place if we didn't. Land that is currently given to grazing could be used for the more environmentally friendly production of vegetables, which is a much more efficient way to gain nourishment.

We eat meat because it gives us pleasure, we want a savoury taste sensation on our vast dinner plates. We could all go vegetarian today and the killing would stop. That would mean, in the UK, in one year alone we would not massacre 9.8million pigs, 15m sheep, 18m turkeys, 14m ducks, 2.6m cattle, 945m chickens, 2.6 billion shellfish and 4.5 billion fish.

We like to think of farms as something out of The Darling Buds of May - bucolic retreats where the chickens scratch around the yard and the ruddy faced farmer throws grain for them from a bowl he carries round his fecund domain. The truth would probably put you off meat for life. And we haven't even got to the abattoir yet.

Animals do not die in peace with Beethoven playing in the background and we would rather not think of it, so we don't find out and we don't spend more to ensure some small improvement in the way they live and die. Just 3.5% of agricultural land is organic and it is that low because demand is that low. If we bought more, they would produce more.

On the issue of endangerment. If the upper estimates are correct we coexist with about 100,000,000 species of animals. Between 10,000 and 100,000 go extinct every year. Where are the campaigns and the letter writing about any of those? There aren't any because they are mostly of the creepy, crawly variety and do not look like childrens' stuffed toys.

The truth is that we are only concerned with animals that are visually attractive to us. It is a beauty parade where the penalty for ugliness is death.

We keep 8 million cats as pets in this country. They kill 275 million prey each year, of which 55 million are birds. They do not do that because they are hungry, just as we do not eat animals because we are are hungry.

We keep 9 million dogs, mostly in towns, where they are kept locked up, alone, while their owners go to work. Dogs, being social animals, do not like this. They think they are being abandoned every day.

Instead of running wild over hills and dales, they get walked twice a day, if they are lucky, and get to pee on a tree in the midst of a concrete wasteland. If we were honest with ourselves, we would call this selfish. We would acknowledge that the dogs are not as happy as they could be, but we think they are cute and they amuse us, so we imprison them.

We are all deeply schizophrenic in our attitude to animals and the only people who can truly occupy the moral high ground are vegans, and out of a UK population of 63 million "animal lovers" there are just 150,000 of them.