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Animal Concern Advice Line News

To all Animal Concern Advice Line supporters

Monday, 17 December 2018

Dear Friends,

Other organisations mark the festive season by sending you glossy newsletters and colourful cruelty-free merchandise catalogues. What do you get from ACAL? Another rant from Robins! I feel a bit like the much-lamented Rikki Fulton's character the Rev. I. M. Jolly, trying to be positive and upbeat despite a message that's more negative and downbeat, delivered in a manner which was definitely deadbeat.

Or is it? My wife and I had our 40th wedding anniversary last month and to mark the occasion appropriately, I splashed out and bought her a curry. As usual, in a bid to lift the conversation, I started talking about my “work”. In particular I began ranting on about how little has changed in the near 40 years I've been in this post.

Mary stopped me in my tracks, not just by telling me she had left her credit card at home, but by pointing out that it wasn't just my waistline that had changed in the last four decades.

November used to be the time to prepare leaflets and posters for December stalls and protests. The big issue then was Bobby Roberts' Annual Glasgow Christmas Circus, first at the Kelvin Hall on Sauchiehall Street and then at the new venue in the custom-built circus section within the Scottish Exhibition & Conference Centre on the banks of the Clyde.

There is no annual Christmas circus in Glasgow anymore and we now have a law banning the use of “wild” animals in any travelling circus which visits Scotland. Of course I don't think the ban goes far enough but it is progress.

In the run-up to Christmas we picketed furriers on Glasgow's Sauchiehall and Buchanan Streets. Supporters in the Scottish Animal Rights Network (SARN) targeted similar shops from Inverness to Dumfries. Sadly there's still at least one furrier in Glasgow and some in other cities but the trade is much diminished compared to the 80s and 90s. The problem now is garments with fur trim and lining and the very telling fact that many manufacturers now describe real fur as fake fur. Safest thing is to avoid buying anything hairy this Christmas.

Another target at Christmas was airguns. I started campaigning on this in the 1970's as a volunteer with Friends of the Earth. I coined the slogan; “Don't buy an airgun, get a Cannon instead.”. The idea being children with airguns might look forward to a criminal record while kids with Cannons could land careers as photographers. In 2015 the Scottish Government brought in a law requiring airgun owners to obtain a license in the same way as shotgun and rifle owners. Again, so long as the law is enforced, it is progress - despite my believing it doesn't go far enough.

December was also the time to tell people about the ugly face of the beauty business. Many a Saturday was spent standing outside Boots in my Bunny Boy costume, distributing horror photos of Draize Eye Tests on rabbits. Testing cosmetics and their ingredients on animals was made illegal in the U.K. in 1998. However we still play Russian roulette by taking medicines passed as “safe” through live animal experiments.

One of many campaigns we have had little success on is the banning of fireworks. For three decades Government has tinkered with existing legislation instead of doing the sensible thing and restricting fireworks to organised displays run by licensed experts. Three weeks ago I read that the Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is planning yet another consultation on the subject. I wrote suggesting it would be better, cheaper and faster just to do what we have been asking for since Guy Fawkes was a boy - ban the sale of fireworks to the general public.

When I looked into it further I discovered there had been problems with misuse of fireworks in Ms Sturgeon's own constituency. She had attended a busy public meeting on the issue and was now planning an expensive consultation. I also learned fireworks legislation has not been fully devolved and the power to ban their general sale still rests with Westminster.

The way forward is for Ms Sturgeon to use her Westminster MPs to push for fully devolved fireworks legislation or, better still, a full U.K. ban on the general sale of fireworks. You can help by writing to your MSPs and MP asking them not to hold a consultation in Scotland and instead pressure Westminster for a UK ban on the sale of fireworks to the general public with their use restricted to organised displays run by licensed, qualified technicians.

A few weeks ago you may have read about American Trophy Huntress Ms Larysa Switlyk who caused some controversy after posting on her website photographs of animals she had shot in Scotland. Ms Switlyk didn't just take home the heads of a stag, a goat and a sheep to hang on her wall. She took home the heads of three Scottish Government Ministers who condemned her actions despite them being perfectly legal and far less cruel than culling currently carried out by SNH on behalf of the Scottish Government and paid for from public funds. The Scottish Government ensured Switlyk obtained global publicity to promote her programme on Canadian TV and her money-spinning trade in hunting gear and clothing which now includes T-shirts featuring her tour of bloody Scotland.

At the time I made the tongue-in-cheek suggestion that Scot Gov employ Switlyk to teach SNH shooters how to kill animals cleanly instead of deliberately “crippling” them (official Government term) and leaving them to die a slow, cruel death. Since then it has emerged that Switlyk used a large sex toy to abuse the corpse of another sheep she had shot. I have quietly used that information to hopefully ensure Switlyk never again obtains the temporary license she would need to return to Scotland to do any more trophy hunting.

I am currently trying to get some media coverage for our campaign against the extremely cruel Government funded cull mentioned above. Look out for it on TV or in the press or, if all else fails, on the Animal Concern Advice Line website.

My warmest wishes to you as you celebrate Christmas, mid-winter, Hogmanay or just getting through another year. Thank you for your support in 2018. Please stay with us in 2019.

Very best wishes,

John F. Robins, Secretary to Animal Concern Advice Line