When did you last hear ‘gas’ and ‘humane’ in the same sentence?

This morning, I came across an item on the BBC website entitled: Princess Anne: Gassing badgers is most humane way to cull.

According to the piece, Princess Royal’s comments came after the British government said it would not expand badger culling from two pilot culls aimed at reducing TB in cattle.

Interest groups of course welcomed her remarks. As a representative of the National Farmers’ Union said in a BBC radio interview ‘The Princess Royal is noted for outspoken views and her forthright honesty. I think it’s an option that needs looking at. And provided we can tick all the boxes as far as humaneness goes then it would certainly be an option to consider.’

When was it the last time you saw ‘gassing’ and ‘humane’ juxtaposed? The humanitarian argument was definitely advanced after the end of the First World War to justify the continuation of the chemical warfare programmes in Allied countries. (Germany lost its sovereign right to armament with the 1919 Versailles Treaty.)

Just check this little item in the The Lewiston Daily Sun of 4 June 1932:

Gas is championed as a humane weapon of war by Maj. Gen. Amos A. Fries, who was chief of chemical warfare for the United States during the world War. […]

General Fries said the humaneness of gas lies in the fact that, while it disables an enemy temporarily, it makes possible a high percentage of recoveries.

The irony shall not escape the badgers.

[Cross-posted from The Trench]

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6 Comments on “When did you last hear ‘gas’ and ‘humane’ in the same sentence?”

  1. S. Batsanov says:

    I can only add a quote from the Chemical Weapons Convention (from para 2, Article II, entitled “Definitions and Criteria”):

    “2. “Toxic Chemical” means:
    Any chemical which through its chemical action on life processes can cause death, temporary incapacitation or permanent harm to humans or animals. This includes all such chemicals, regardless of their origin or of their method of production, and regardless of whether they are produced in facilities, in munitions or elsewhere….”

    And would leave it to the lawyers to argue, whether we are confronted with the idea of using chemical weapons for culling, and if not, why ?

    • JP Zanders says:

      Article II.9(a) also identifies agricultural purposes as not being prohibited by the CWC. Which may shift your question to what an ‘agricultural purpose’ is (in this case, saving cattle from TB).

      I wonder if we would be served well to replicate the Bond case (USA) in the UK?

      • S. Batsanov says:

        I can’t recall a single instance at the CWC negotiations when culling animals with gas was mentioned as a legitimate agricultural purpose. To be fair, the uses of herbicides, pesticides, defoliants and fertilizers (when necessary for normal agricultural production activities) were.

  2. JP Zanders says:

    I know, Serguei. Which is why I referred tot the Bond case: there are so many prosecutions of animal poisoning in the USA, so that if the Surpeme Court were to rule that the CWC can be used to prosecute Carol Bond,who tried to poison a romantic rival, the convention could also be invoked in in cases such as poisoning a neighbour’s cat or dog.

  3. […] with TB. On Arms Control Law, where I cross-post most of my contributions, former CWC negotiator, Sergey Batsanov noted that implementation of the proposal would violate the CWC—Article II explicitly mentions […]

  4. […] with TB. On Arms Control Law, where I cross-post most of my contributions, former CWC negotiator, Sergey Batsanov noted that implementation of the proposal would violate the CWC—Article II explicitly mentions […]


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