What are the rights of cockroaches?

Auberon Waugh

Auberon Waugh

[Disclaimer: This article is written from a position which does not attribute rights to animals and therefore does not represent my views.My rebuttal is given at the end of the article -LB]

Journalists who for one reason or another wish to outlaw country recreations have developed the habit of referring to the Countryside Alliance, the body which acts as spokesman for country dwellers, as being "very rich". In fact the Alliance is a church mouse compared to the roaring lions of the opposition. One such organisation alone - the International Federation for Animal Welfare or IFAW - has been credited with receiving $200 million of American money, and I have not seen the figure contradicted. We may wonder how they manage to spend the cash pouring in from American animal sentimentalists in order to prevent English country folk from doing what they want to do.Journalists are not all that expensive.
This week we learnt how the IFAW movement is expanding. In addition to buying journalists, they have started investing in academics, to form the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare (UFAW). Next we will have the Engineers Federation for Animal Welfare (EFAW), the Obstetricians Federation (OFAW) the Car Dealers (CARDFAW). There need be no end to it. Perhaps the whole world could be turned into an organisation for animal welfare, but where would they go after that?
The Universities Federation has shown a way. At a symposium held at the Zoological Society, speaker after speaker argued that insects should be treated as if they were animals, since they are capable of feeling pain.
"Perhaps people should think twice before reaching for the fly spray," said Dr Stephen Wickens, of UFAW. Dr "Chris" Sherwin, of the University of Bristol, described experiments in which a chimpanzee had been given an electric shock in its hand ,and had pulled its hand away,thereby showing its great intelligence. But cockroaches, slugs and snails - none of which are protected by anti-cruelty legislation - reacted in the same way. Obviously they did not pull their hands away, having none to pull, but he claims they showed a similar reaction:
"Slugs will perform in some of these tests the same way as dogs, chimps and cats. They show far more complex patterns of behaviour than we had thought. And if they do feel pain, isn't that a welfare issue?"
It may not be easy to know exactly what Dr Sherwin means by a welfare issue, but the suggestion is plainly that we should consider legislation making it a criminal offence to cause suffering among slugs, snails, cockroaches and flies. Nobody mentions worms, so cruelly cut in half whenever anybody puts a spade into the ground. We have always been assured that they feel nothing. Is this scientifically correct? If not, where do we go from there, in an age which is so concerned about pain?
A later speaker at the UFAW conference, Dr Keith Kendrick, of the Babraham Institute in Cambridge, raised the stakes even higher by insisting that sheep have many human qualities: The way they recognise faces and the way they process face images is very similar to the way we do it . . . animals like sheep are doing things, as far as the brain is concerned, that are so similar to us it does imply that they are capable of some level of consciousness."
Does this mean that we should treat ovine life as if it were human? Fortunately, Dr Kendrick admitted that he occasionally ate lamb, despite his findings. This seems to put the discovery that cockroaches feel pain into perspective. Like many insects, cockroaches are a nuisance. They are greedy and dirty and widely credited with spreading disease, although I am not sure exactly what diseases they spread. Perhaps they experience pain when they are squashed, swept up and put in the dustbin but most people will harden themselves to the fact and decide they simply do not care.
Cockroaches may fulfil an important role in reducing our present obsession with animals to absurdity. Not even. New Labour will quite dare pass a law forbidding People to kill cockroaches in their own homes. There used to be a song many years ago which remonstrated with people who ate Brussels sprouts on the grounds that they were robbing a cabbage of its young, and reminded us that every lettuce has a heart. It was satirically intended, of course, but the sad truth is that the animal welfare industry, with its millions of dollars from American sentimentalists, is a formidable power in the land. As soon as it has stopped people from hunting, shooting and fishing it will move to protecting caterpillars in our gardens.
Its chief officer in this country would appear to be a large young man called Neil Hansen. From a conventional, middle class background, he is now a full-time activist living on welfare, and foolishly allows himself to be photographed in the newspapers, usually demonstrating outside someone's home. He seems to embody the great animal movement. I wish him no particular harm, but I must confess to a fantasy, that if ever I find myself in the unpleasant situation of having to squash a cockroach, I shall shut my eyes and imagine that it is Neil Hansen under my shoe. I hope it does not hurt too much.
Auberon Waugh The Sunday Telegraph May 14 2000
People's champion,schoolmarm and animal hater :Anne Robinson

Anne Robinson

The Watchdog people's champion is enjoying talking tough to quiz-show contestants, but admits her height is still her very own weakest link

What have you been enjoying on TV?
Newsnight and Reputations. And The Bill - I also like a bit of un-taxing television.
What is your first memory of TV or radio?
We didn't have a television until I was ten, so the first decade of my life was a radio decade, which probably left me with a stronger attachment to radio. The first time I watched TV was the coronation on our neighbours' set. I remember it went on for ever.
Who do you find sexy on TV?
Jonathan Ross. Because he's quick and clever and makes me laugh. I think he's very underrated.
What is your favourite radio programme? Start the Week. I listen to it in my indoor swimming pool because I've got speakers under the water.
Complete this sentence: I wish...
... I were taller. I'm short and dumpy. The only person shorter and dumpier than me is Elaine Paige.
Who would you like to play you in a film of your life?
Julia Roberts. My daughter thinks she's fantastic.
What would be your first act as world leader?
I'd lock up all the hunt saboteurs because they are destructive. They are campaigning about something of which they know nothing.

What would you being doing now if you hadn't made a career In TV and radio?
I suppose I'd be a newspaper editor.
Where do you see yourself in ten years' time?
No taller. Possibly even shorter.
What would you most like to change about yourself?
My height. I'm very happy otherwise.
Describe yourself In three words.
Awkward. Very awkward.
In the event of a natural disaster, what would you rescue from your home/office?
My English setters, Sebastian and Maudy.
If you could choose, which historical/cultural figure would you be?
I can relate to Rebecca West. She was a woman ahead of her time and showed extraordinary skill as an essayist in her very early twenties. I can relate to her because her emotional life was all over the place as well.
What's the best piece of advice you've been given, and by whom?
By my mother when I first got married: "Have a facial once a month."
What's the strangest piece of fan mail you've ever received?
When I was doing Points of View, one fan used to write once a week to ask me to marry him. This went on for years.
What's the least enjoyable job you've ever had?
Doing Blankety Blank, because I was the only guest who hadn't done a summer season. I felt totally out of my depth.
What has been your proudest achievement on Watchdog?
That we have single-handedly changed the tune of the travel world. I believe that in the past few years we have made it very inconvenient for tour operators and travel agents not to address customer services.
What is your pet hate?
Sloppy service. What is the worst excuse you've ever heard? "We are a victim of our own success." We've had that one quite a lot-I just sneer when I hear it.
What was your very first item on Watchdog?
It was the Hoover free-flights fiasco. It was almost impossible to actually get one. What's the best way to complain effectively? Persistence pays off. You've got to approach it in a way that says, "Don't mess with me"; you've got to make it snappy; and never take with you a partner who keeps saying, "Shhh, just leave it." I'm married to one of those.
How do you feel about the critics who described your performance on The Weakest Link as strict and schoolmarmish?
It's meant to be. For once the critics have got it right!

Anne Robinson also hosts Weekend Watchdog Fridays BBC1
PollyToynbee on Watchdog, see page 16
Watchdog Thursdays BBC1
The Weakest Link Monday
[Radio Times 30 September-6 October 2000]

Robinson's far from cordial

In the Anne Robinson questionnaire (RT 30 September),she stated that her first act as worlds leader would be to "lock up all hunt saboteurs". What a sad insight into her personality that she would pass up the opportunity to tackle issues such as Third World famine, exploitation in the developing world or indeed world peace in place of criminalising individuals who simply aim to save the lives of hunted animals.
Her comment that hunt saboteurs are "campaigning about something of which they know nothing" clearly highlights her own ignorance of the subject matter. The Hunt Saboteurs Association does more than campaign against bloodsports; it effectively halts them in their tracks through the use of non-violent direct action. We have done so for almost 40 years, and in that time have come to know more about the brutality of this so-called "sport" than Ms Robinson could ever hope to understand.
Dawn Preston
Hunt Saboteurs Association

Not a clay day

In the 3 October episode of The Weakest Link (weekdays BBC2), Anne Robinson asked the question: "In the Wallace and Gromit movie A Grand Day Out what is the name of the sheep?" The answer she proceeded to announce was Shaun. This is inaccurate, as there is no sheep in A Grand Day Out only in A Close Shave.
Katy Nicoll (aged 16)

[RT Letters 21-27 October 2000]

Having read Peter Singer it is perhaps obvious that Mr Waugh is speciesist and if this were another age Mr Waugh would like as not be telling us that people of a different race were lesser people who should not be treated with the same consideration as himself. Ignorant Tory bigots are a nuisance,should we then using Mr Waugh's logic crush them,underfoot with the same lack of consideration that he would crush an insect or indeed another human being whom he considers "sentimental" because that person has enough humanity to extend their feelings to other forms of life further afield than himself? The chimpanzee to which Mr Waugh refers has over 99% of it's DNA in common with a human being,upon what premise do we judge it inferior enough to treat it with contempt? Intelligence? Consciousness? Being able to speak? These are all "human" values; a set of standards that we arrogantly set up and ask other creatures to comply with. If some other (Alien) set of standards were used,we may not measure up. Mr Waugh seems to think that some kind of opposition is coming from the USA imposing its will upon aristocratic UK citizens. It is not just the USA Mr Waugh,your own colleague,Jeremy Clarke reports in the same issue,how the underclass are smarter than supposed, and judging by Mr Waugh's lack of logic and inadequate thinking process,not to mention lack of humanity, we are given an example of the ineptness of the supposedly intellectual elite. Indeed,why is intellect any basis for discrimination? One cannot test intellectual capability with any objectivity. Many animals are far smarter than we are in many circumstances.African grey parrots can speak English or whatever is their native human language,apparently in context and with comprehension.[ I've seen one play "peekaboo" with itself,apparently aware of it's reflection as being its "self",and able to understand that uttering "peekaboo" (in English) is done whilst playing a game of hide-and seek]. I dare say that Mr Waugh is quite able to articulate simple arguments back "parrot fashion" but I doubt that his vocalisations stretch to talking in a parrot's native tongue of squawks.The Corolla Spider was apparently using the characteristics of Quartz crystal long before we used it to make digital watches.So we shouldn't be so smug, conceited and self-satisfied about our abilities or achievements,nor should we judge other creatures in terms of what we think has import. It is irrelevant that another creature cannot stand on the moon or build computers. Stripped of our technology we would not last a second up against other creatures special abilities in the wild. So too Mr Waugh maybe able to mimic a sheep,bleating about loss of what people wish to do.Why would anyone wish to have a "right to kill",when presumably Mr Waugh and his aristo friends take their morality form the Judeo -Christian ethics which tells him "Do not kill",it doesn't say "except animals". In fact,it is possible to make the claim that man was created vegetarian,man being given "dominion" over the animals, and intended to be their guardian,not their murderer. Just because a creature happens to carry parasites that may cause a problem is no reason to crush it underfoot with complete contempt.Upon that premise man should be culled for carrying parasites which invade other species.I have a fantasy where those that carry malicious and untenable ideas parasitically in their brains are crushed underfoot,but I would not wish it on Mr Waugh,even though he just happens to be one of those people.Mr Waugh should also be careful of what belief system might have validity,since some religions have us believe one can be reincarnated as a creature,and that a once human soul may inhabit the body. Be careful Mr Waugh,it maybe you next time around that is getting crushed! Just think Mr Waugh,you could be reincarnated as a cockroach,little change there then! The simple minded destruction of a creature,is as bad as the simple destruction of GM crops.No doubt Mr Waugh would be the first to claim the rights of the farmers who are the "guardians of the countryside" to be able to grow whatever crops they will. As many ecological mathematics has shown (ie Robert May) the knock on effect of systematically destroying any part of an ecology without due care and attention is the action of a brute,and can create unforeseen disastrous consequences,indeed this is the reason given for not growing GM crops.Why then does Mr Waugh so readily apply the same naivety where animals are concerned? The often used ploy of killing a butterfly back in time which subsequently bodes ill for mankind is a metaphor that works just as well in reality. Mr Waugh would have done well to listen to this years Reith lectures,especially lecture 5 by Vandana Shiva,in it she said:-

When giant corporations view small peasants and bees as thieves, and through trade rules and new technologies seek the right to exterminate them, humanity has reached a dangerous threshold. The imperative to stamp out the smallest insect, the smallest plant, the smallest peasant comes from a deep fear - the fear of everything that is alive and free. And this deep insecurity and fear is unleashing the violence against all people and all species.

In giving food to other beings and species we maintain conditions for our own food security. In feeding earthworms we feed ourselves. In feeding cows, we feed the soil, and in providing food for the soil, we provide food for humans. This worldview of abundance is based on sharing and on a deep awareness of humans as members of the earth family. This awareness that in impoverishing other beings, we impoverish ourselves and in nourishing other beings, we nourish ourselves is the real basis of sustainability.

I personally am committed to feeling and believing that the smallest of species and the smallest of people have as much a right to live on this planet with dignity as the most powerful corporation and the most powerful individual.

Zeb Phibbs from Britain says eating meat has got a lot to answer for. 70% of everything grown is used to feed animals which are then killed to feed us. Use the land grow food directly for people and we can easily feed everyone. Being Vegan is easy - completely cruelty free and sustainable. What more do you need?

One vegetarian writing to the TV fax said that the way that we treat animals is indicative of the way that we treat people.Mr Waugh's readiness to crush an insect is indicative of his mentality and of how he would treat people.It is no wonder that in Reith lecture 5,Vandana Shiva's comments were strewn with references to UK imperialist rule of India.No doubt it was Mr Waugh's ancestors who crushed the indigenous population like insects.It is very strange that Mr Waugh suggests that an anti IFAW position is somehow in keeping with the aristocracy's position.It is the Prince of Wales himself, perhaps the pinnacle of the aristocracy,who ends the Reith lectures (Care for the Earth),and it is somewhat of a contradiction that someone in his position who does hunt with hounds is sat on a forum listening to speakers who are telling him to care for all creatures and lend them dignity.If only the Prince gave as much credence to foxes as he does Dahlia's. In Vandana's comments on Earthworm's is shown Mr Waugh's ignorance.The earthworm is necessary to facilitate a good soil for vegetation to grow.If we adopted Mr Waugh's hatred for anything without a human face or intelligence,then we would be shooting ourselves in the foot by destroying the very ecology we depend on to live. Mr Waugh also seems to think there is something wrong with being state subsidised whilst being anti-establishment in one's values,presumably thinking this is the height of audacity to bite the hand that feeds you,or that such compassionate views are only held by poor people and beatniks. Well,Mr Waugh,we live in a democracy where everyone has rights,including the poor,to extol whatever views they will.I'd rather they extolled virtuous life-loving views,rather than the contempt for life that you have,rich or poor. You are an anachronism Mr Waugh,so are your views,so are your kindred spirits who think they can kill and maim in a world that is looking to "Care for the Earth",and seeing as though the Prince of Wales himself,is chairing the final Reith lecture,it seems you are even out on a limb even when compared with the aristocracy. The most vocal anti -GM campaigners and pro-organic producers are themselves wealthy socialites who make their living either farming vast tracts of land or by virtue of their own genome inheriting vast sums of money.Those aristocrats have a vested interest in seeing science swallowed up in their ignorant views.When C60 (The Carbon isotope,Buckminster Fullerene) was discovered, the so-called educated elite comprising a certain baroness, was heard to ask "Pray tell my Lords,is this thing,animal,vegetable or mineral?" (as recounted by Sir Harry Kroto).These are the same people that tell us what is wrong and right,kill foxes,and say that GM crops are "playing God",and yet if by the latter comment one is to take they stand by the ten commandments,then they are breaking these laws by killing in cold blood. That is the difference Mr Waugh,between killing a worm with a spade,and hunting a fox down with hounds.The former is an accident that nigh on cannot be helped,the latter is cold blooded murder for pleasure.Don't try and tell me that it's to keep the numbers down,because it isn't. The mathematics prove otherwise.If you study population dynamics it becomes very clear how absurd the Countryside Alliance's arguments are.Foxes are killed in greater numbers and more quickly and easily by other methods,not least shooting or poisoning,and both of these methods are more humane than being torn apart whilst alive. If Mr Waugh is so haughty about why pain is so high on the biological agenda,then perhaps we should set a pack of hounds on Mr Waugh and have him find out first hand why pain is a good arbiter of what sort of considerations humans should make.If we take the moral high ground Mr Waugh,and figure that we are somehow superior to animals, all this tells us is that their is an onus upon us not to act as our base instincts tell us to.Our base urge is "Kill or be killed",but we don't have to act like this,perhaps this is why there is biblical precedent for this law? We have a responsibility as "higher" organisms (presuming we are) to act without savagery, to animals,as well as each other.This it seems to me is very much what the Reith lectures were trying to say. This week (18 May 2000) Tomorrow's World (also frequented by the Prince) reported that plants may feel pain.I rather doubt it since there is no equivalent nervous system or brain with which to develop those responses (it is because other creatures do that there is some reason to consider their responses).This was only found out by transplanting genes from firefly's into plants and watching them glow when touched.I doubt very much that a vegetable can be classed as having the same responses as an animal. But again we see that it is "human" classification that determines whether or not something does or does not "feel". Mr Waugh may think it satirical to say that a "lettuce has a heart",but panpsychists think that consciousness extends even to rocks,and as Danah Zohar shows in "Are Electrons Conscious?" ,it maybe that consciousness is all pervasive and it is therefore the height of arrogance to assume that humans are the only creatures capable of having it.Indeed as Roger Penrose shows in "Shadows of the Mind",the Paramecium displays many attributes that seem to mimic behaviours thought to require a brain,but it manages quite alright without one! Ironically,it's microtubular system depends on the "Clathrin" molecule which has a similar structure to "Buckyballs".Perhaps if those Lords and Ladies actually educated themselves instead of pompously looking down their noses at scientific premises,they would actually know into which category a Buckyball,Clathrin molecule,and Paramecium fell and realise that the whole argument of what is conscious and what is not is not as simple as their limited arguments suppose. [Maybe they are victims of CP Snow's "
Two Cultures"]. Even if you strip away all the arguments of consciousness, intelligence,and pain,the hunting and killing of an animal for sport is as absurd as if one was doing the same to a human being.It is not so much the end consequence as the intent of the action,to maim,injure,and destroy that is fundamentally what is wrong with the action.No doubt these same people scorn those on football terraces giving the country a bad name,whilst themselves ripping to shreds a terrified creature,and hypocritically believing that somehow they are morally superior to low class people and their tribal football games which result in violence. At least footballers do it to other human beings,who can in theory protect themselves. The action of the aristocratic elite is shameful,as it would be to attack a small defenceless child,and yet these are the same people who argue the death penalty for murderers,rapists,and child killers. Why have double standards? If it works for child killers,then it works for animal killers.The brutal slaying of an innocent defenceless organism,deserves the same punishment, and if they are willing to mete it out to the those who commit acts against humans,so to should it be forthcoming for those who commit atrocities to animals.But no,whilst the apex of the elite,the Prince of Wales operates double standards,of appearing on Tomorrow's World and lauding technology whilst putting his foot in his mouth when it comes to taking issue with its consequences,and at the same time partaking of the glorious 12th and running foxes to ground,there is no hope of aristocratic imbeciles ever actually being informed of the issues.If they can't fit C60 into the correct category,what hope have they of ever deciding what is conscious and what isn't; what deserves respect and what doesn't? The answer is easy,treat everything with respect,and not with contempt.-LB





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