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POSITIVE NEWS - What went right this week: animals declared ‘sentient beings’, plus more positive news

Posted 14th May 2021 • Written by •

The UK announced sweeping animal welfare reforms, research revealed reforestation successes and a paralysed man used ‘mindwriting’ to compose a sentence, plus the week’s other positive news

Animals to be formally recognised as sentient beings in UK law

Animal welfare campaigners claimed a major victory this week, as the UK government announced legislative reforms that will ban live animal exports, prohibit trophy hunting imports and formally recognise animals as sentient beings.   

“Like London buses, you wait a lifetime for animal welfare legislation to appear and then three bills come along at once,” said James West, senior policy manager at Compassion in World Farming. 

Activists have long campaigned against the practice of exporting farm animals for slaughtering and fattening. On Wednesday, their calls were answered. The government also said it would ban the import and export of shark fins, explore a ban on foie gras imports and introduce measures to improve conditions for livestock. 

Wildlife presenter Steve Backshall, a patron of the Bite-Back campaign against shark finning, said: “The government’s decision to ban the trade in shark fins will be significant in helping to restore the balance of the oceans. It sends a clear message to the world that shark fin soup belongs in the history books and not on the menu.”

Research revealed global reforestation successes

A welcome change from headlines about deforestation was the positive news this week that the world has gained an area of forest the size of France since 2000. The regeneration doesn’t nearly offset losses suffered during that time, but it does highlight the potential for forests to recover. 

Using satellite imaging data and physical surveys, researchers discovered that nearly 59m hectares of forest had regrown globally since 2000. In Brazil, where deforestation in the Amazon has soared recently, the Atlantic Forest was found to have expanded by an area roughly the size of the Netherlands. 

Trillion Trees, the conservation organisation behind the research, highlighted Mongolia’s boreal forests as another success story – they were found to have expanded by 1.2m hectares. Forests in Canada and parts of central Africa have also expanded, the body added, but warned that globally forests were shrinking at a “terrifying rate”. 

William Baldwin-Cantello of WWF-UK said: “We can’t take this regeneration for granted – deforestation still claims millions of hectares every year, vastly more than is regenerated. We need support for regeneration in climate delivery plans and must tackle the drivers of deforestation.”

UK local elections saw wins for BAME candidates

In the aftermath of the UK local elections it was easy to overlook the smaller stories of progress lurking behind the major headlines. Such as the appointment of Joanne Anderson (pictured), who made history by becoming Liverpool’s and the UK’s first black female mayor.

There was also progress in the capital, where Marina Ahmad, Hina Bokhari and Sakina Sheikh became the first Muslim women elected to the London Assembly. 

And in Scotland, for the first time, two women from minority ethnic backgrounds were elected: Kaukab Stewart of the SNP and Pam Gosal of the Scottish Conservatives. That they are joined in Holyrood by only five other candidates from minority ethnic backgrounds shows there’s some way to go. 

Diversity drive yielded results at Oxford University

The University of Oxford revealed this week that it had almost doubled the intake of students from disadvantaged backgrounds. It follows efforts to increase diversity within the institution.  

The university’s latest Undergraduate Admissions Report showed that it had admitted a record proportion of students from socio-economically disadvantaged areas (15.9 per cent), compared to 8.2 per cent five years ago.  

Over the same period, the proportion of state school pupils studying at the university rose from 58 per cent to 68.6 per cent, while the proportion of students identifying as black and minority ethnic rose from 15.8 per cent to 23.6 per cent.

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