Marriage and Civil Partnership Equality
I personally feel that couples that want their relationship to be recognised but do not want to be married should be able to obtain a civil partnership.
I do not believe that the Government should decide whether or not civil partnerships/gay marriages are allowed to be performed in religious buildings. I believe the community and the religious leaders whom would perform such services should have the ability to determine what ceremonies they do/do not perform.
Whether civil partnerships between same-sex couples should be recognised as marriages by name (and marriage certificate), whether the law should be changed from marriage only being between a man and a woman, among other things, should be decided by referendum.
Marriage is of religious and cultural importance, so a decision on something this significant can only democratically be decided upon by the general population. With strong opinions on all 3 sides (for/neutral/against) I'm sure everyone that believes in democracy would rather they voted on the issue themselves instead of having someone "represent" everyone.
I personally feel we should have civil partnerships, civil marriages, and religious marriages. Any couple that could legally form a partnership under the rules of any of those should be able to under the others. If someone wants a religious marriage but a place of worship refuses to do so (divorced, not regularly attending, different religion, doesn't recognise same-sex or opposite-sex weddings, etc) they could always have a civil marriage. If someone doesn't like the concept of marriage they can form a civil partnership.
Civil partnerships and civil marriages are legal concepts and have nothing to do with religion, even though a religious marriage may take place at the same time as a civil marriage.
I was previously against the idea of same-sex unions being called marriages, but that was mainly because of my personal aversion to the concept of marriage due to religious influences.
I am now neutral on the subject. If someone wants a religious marriage and their religion allows it, I don't have a problem with it. If a same-sex couple would rather have a civil marriage than a civil partnership, I don't have a problem with that either. If someone is against the idea of marriage because of what the word means to them, there should be a legally recognised commitment ceremony to recognise their relationship.
I am in favour of same-sex marriage and opposite-sex civil partnerships as long as neither impact on religious freedom. My views on political correctness and free speech equally apply to religious freedom - intentionally inciting hatred, encouraging violence, or telling others it is OK to discriminate against others in society is not what free speech should be about.
Ritual Slaughter (Shechita, Dhabihah, Jhatka)
My opinion on the ritualistic slaughter of animals for the purpose of obtaining meat for consumption is that it should not be banned without sound scientific evidence that proves that all animals that undergo such a death causes pain and suffering to the animal.
Any decision for a ban should not be influenced by people of the opinion that it is inhumane, morally wrong, wouldn't do it themselves, looks painful to the animal, et cetera. I believe it is wrong to call for a ban saying "it is cruel to the animals" without any sound scientific evidence to back up such an assertion.
I do not believe jhatka causes pain or distress in any way to an animal.
I do not believe shechita (excluding shechita munachat) causes pain or distress to animals unless the slaughterhouse is over-industrialised. A complete ban because a large slaughterhouse may put speed before animal welfare does not make sense since we already have legislation relating to animal cruelty.
My views on dhabihah are identical to those for shechita, with one difference. Dhabihah slaughter using head-only stunning does seem to allow for slightly more industrialisation than shechita without impacting animal welfare.
Slaughter using penetrating captive bolt stunning appears to cause pain to animals. Non-penetrating captive bolt stunning appears to be less reliable than the penetrating type. Free bolt stunning does not appear to me to not cause distress to animals. Despite this, captive bolt stunning is the preferred method of slaughter.
Without clear proof that any form of slaughter done properly causes distress to animals I would be against any ban on a form of slaughter including the current preferred method of captive bolt stunning used in non-ritual slaughter. With adequate labelling people are able to base their food purchasing decisions based upon their own views, such is the case with battery farming, free range foods, organic foods, and fair trade foods. If consumers are not willing to buy something because of their own moral reasoning, I believe adequate labelling would be sufficient enough to remove products there is no demand for from sale (supply and demand).
Smoking Bans and Tobacco Control Strategies
I am against any further smoking bans.
By further restricting where people can smoke, we will soon be in the position where smokers that are addicted to nicotine are unable to work. 21% of the population smoke (Department of Health), and most of those do so because they have tobacco-dependence-syndrome.
Do we really want up to one fifth of the population to be on benefits because of those campaigning for poorly thought-out bans? When businesses were allowed to have smoking rooms, non-smokers weren't exposed to second-hand smoke unless they entered those rooms. I am against any further bans based purely on junk science.
We do not have laws against people that wear too much perfume or aftershave, so why are we allowing laws to be passed because of some people being offended by the smell of smoke?
Ban companies from having smoking rooms, ban employees from smoking near their and nearby workplaces, ban employees from smoking in their vehicles even if they have no passengers, and we'll soon reach the point where the majority of smokers will only be able to smoke in their back gardens. Smokers will not be able to work from home because they will be using their home for business purposes and need to be X metres away from their back door and X might encompass the majority of gardens of average size.
This is completely the wrong way our tobacco control strategy should be heading. Instead of persecuting smokers we should be helping them switch from smoking tobacco cigarettes to alternatives such as chewing tobacco, electronic cigarettes, electronic pipes, etc.
We should not be banning tobacco-containing and nicotine-containing products because they have a (sometimes unknown) risk compared to actively inhaling tobacco smoke. I can't see how a common sense approach to such alternatives means something that is extremely unlikely to have a detrimental effect on the health of others is more likely to be banned than suggested to smokers.
Loss of revenue from tobacco duty and taxes, and loss of revenue from medicine licensing, should not even play a part in the reason for not suggesting alternatives. If we really care about the health of smokers, we should allow them to decide if they want to try an alternative that is likely to be less harmful then active smoking.
By getting smokers to switch to alternative products so they aren't inhaling smoke we could cut the number of smokers by 80% and reduce the number of cigarettes some of the other 20% smoke within a couple of months (according to an anecdotal survey of electronic cigarette owners on a forum).
We can then differentiate between those that have a high tobacco dependence, and those that are either addicted to nicotine or use it recreationally - at present nicotine addiction is usually determined by cigarette smoking habits.
We could then focus on helping those that are unable to give up smoking completely by working on alternative strategies, help those that are addicted to nicotine and want to become nicotine free using different strategies. This would allow those that don't want to give up nicotine for whatever reason to continue using products that are unlikely to be as damaging to their own health as active smoking nor likely to be detrimental to those around them.
Our doctors should be suggesting alternatives to smokers that have asthma or COPD to try cigarette alternatives if they are unable or not willing to try NRT. The Government should be funding studies to find out if products currently on the market are a viable alternative for smokers with smoking related illnesses and if those willing to try switching and do so successfully subsequently require less NHS treatment or medication for their smoking related illnesses.
There is no need to treat tobacco-free alternatives as medicines nor require companies to go through medicine and pharmacy regulatory procedures if we don't plan on only allowing their sale in pharmacies. By allowing doctors to suggest (not prescribe) these alternatives there will be no financial cost to the NHS since tobacco consumers will have a choice. The average cigarette smoker will also save money and may subsequently buy an alternative product as a gift for one of their smoking friends. Family members of those that successfully switch may buy one as a gift for a smoking friend/colleague.
Since most of the companies in the electronic cigarette industry are run by former smokers, there is no reason (nor proof) that they are putting profits before quality and safety. The average electronic cigarette user knows more from their own research of what is contained in nicotine fluid than they previously knew about the smoke they were inhaling. Some consumers also opt for liquids that are advertised as being made from pharmaceutical grade ingredients. Because of that, a viable solution to quality concerns would be for the Department of Health to sub-contract a laboratory to mix liquid for sale OTC and allow the consumer to choose what level of assured quality they are comfortable with.
Concerns about alternatives leading to increases in nicotine overdoses are unfounded because since they have been on the market the number of deaths attributed to nicotine toxicity in England and Wales has remained at zero (Office for National Statistics) and there has been no statistically significant increase in hospital diagnoses related to nicotine toxicity in England (Hospital Episode Statistics). Pharmaceutical nicotine products are available OTC to anyone under 16 that understands the advice given by pharmacists. All online stores selling alternatives state the potential risks of using nicotine, and require confirmation from the purchaser that they are over 18.
England and the UK should be able to make its own decisions on healthcare instead of being dictated to by the World Health Organisation, European Commission, et al. We should be able to use common sense in deciding whether to take a precautionary approach on something rather than requiring proven scientific fact. We should not require scientific proof on the safety and efficacy of something that is advertised as an alternative to something that has a 50% chance of contributing to a smokers death. Nicotine containing products are one of several areas where we should require sound scientific fact of proof of harm instead of requiring peer-reviewed trials on safety and efficacy. Our healthcare system should not be basing its decisions on conjecture.