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Tomorrow’s world

Why animal rights are a Pandora’s box

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In 2017 Carrie Symonds tweeted: “The Conservatives WILL make sure animal sentience is recognised in UK law.” Last week her wish came true. Animals are to be recognised as sentient beings. It’s 150 years since Darwin wrote about their ability to feel pleasure and pain, just as we do. Now the government has pledged to enshrine the idea in UK law.

We are opening a Pandora’s box, says Henry Mance in The Mail on Sunday. As we know from the row over hunting, animal welfare can generate “emotional and bitter political arguments”. There will be battles over other bloodsports, including fishing and shooting. Farmers, already working on tight margins, could face all sorts of new problems. So could the fishing industry, as the new bill seeks to protect any animal with a backbone.

Farmers point out that Britain already adheres to higher animal-welfare standards than any other country in Europe. Fur farming is illegal in Britain, for example, and pigs are often kept outdoors. Nor, for the most part, do pigs have their tails docked – almost standard practice in Germany and the Netherlands. But the government wants to go much further. It has promised to consider banning the use of cages for hens and narrow metal crates for farrowing pigs. Both measures would push up costs for farmers and shoppers. And meat will still be imported from countries that don’t take animal welfare as seriously. Ministers say they will not compromise the UK’s standards, but “the pressure for quick trade deals with countries such as the US and Australia may prove too great”.

Ministers hope that by recognising animal sentience they will be lauded by animal-loving voters. But there are few easy answers – and “plenty of battles to come”.

From Tokyo to LA by spaceship taxi 

Japan is “gearing up” to develop intercontinental spaceship taxis, says Tomohiro Ikeda in The Mainichi. The country’s science ministry last week announced plans to have “spaceships that passengers can board” zipping from Tokyo to LA in the 2040s.

Two forms of rocket-powered craft are in the works: one that can “take off and land on runways” and another that can take off and land vertically, like the Starship being developed by SpaceX. The Japanese government hopes that giving the sector a state-funded boost will prompt private industries to invest, creating a $46bn market for spaceships “to and from Japan” by 2040. “Forget the jetset, it’s time for the rocketset,” says Quartz.