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Animals Matter: Why our new Prime Minister must stick to manifesto commitments on animal welfare

Animals Matter: Why our new Prime Minister must stick to manifesto commitments on animal welfare

Humane Society International UK

4 min read Partner content

Animals matter to the British public and they mattered to our late Queen – so why is Liz Truss turning her back on them?

One of the most touching and personal moments in our country’s period of national mourning for her late Majesty the Queen was the sight of her pony, Emma, and corgis Muick and Sandy, patiently awaiting her funeral procession at Windsor Castle. Amidst all the grand pageantry, this very human moment of love and lost love, left even some of those with the stiffest of upper lips reaching for the Kleenex. The Times reported on the fitting tribute that animals were ‘central to the Queen’s life, an ever-present source of joy’.

As a self-proclaimed ‘nation of animal lovers’ we should not be surprised that our late Queen considered her corgis to be part of the family, nor that the presence of her animal companions at her funeral touched so many people. During her reign, she was able to sign into law dozens of laws to strengthen protections for animals including, this year, the Animal Sentience Act and a law banning the use of horrifically cruel rodent glue traps. Her Majesty even made the decision in late 2019 to exclude new fur from her private wardrobe.

Despite solid progress, the statute for animals today is far from a finished article; it must continue to be strengthened, guided by society’s evolving moral compass and scientific understanding. Boris Johnson’s government seemed to grasp that. In his foreword to the government’s 2021 Action Plan on Animal Welfare, Mr. Johnson’s Environment Secretary George Eustice said “The way we treat animals reflects our values and the kind of people we are. We will continue to raise the bar, and we intend to take the rest of the world with us.”

Protecting animals in law could be said to be a fundamentally British thing. Indeed, in July this year we celebrated the bicentenary of the UK’s – in fact the world’s – first national animal protection law. For the past 200 years the United Kingdom has not shied away from banning myriad cruelties to animals including bear baiting, cock fighting, the import of whale meat and ivory. Banning animal cruelty and the import of cruelly produced products, has been in our cultural DNA for generations.

So it is with huge frustration that we now hear senior Conservatives sowing the seeds of a ‘change of approach’ on animal policy, decrying bans on animal cruelty, laying the ground for dilution or abandonment of the many popular commitments set out in the Action Plan, such as bans on the import and sale of cruelly produced fur and foie gras. There even appears to be a public toe-in-the-water for a u-turn on a manifesto commitment to ban live exports of farmed animals.

This week a senior Conservative described plans to ban the import of fur as too ‘socialist’, perhaps unaware of the recent polls that show 79% of Conservative voters believe that the government should ban the import of animal products, such as fur, where production is banned in the UK.

The libertarian bluster from what Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation patron Sir Roger Gale MP describes as coming from ‘the red neck’ minority of the Tory party, is not only at odds with voters’ expectations, but also inconsistent.  Ministers have recently carried over into UK law the EU bans on the import of dog, cat and seal fur.  Attempting to draw a line that banning imports of fur from other species is a step too far has a decidedly arbitrary feel about it. The public disgust for the cruelty of animal fur is strong, be it dalmatian or fox.

The actions our new prime minister takes, or doesn’t take, to protect animals as vulnerable members of our society could be an early barometer of the nature of her premiership. Abandoning a series of policies and manifesto commitments with overwhelming public support, risks missing a golden opportunity to connect with voters.

Humane Society International/UK will be at the upcoming party conferences, sharing exhibition stands with our colleagues from the RSPCA, Compassion in World Farming and FOUR PAWS UK under the banner ‘Animals Matter’. We aim to connect with politicians across the spectrum, inviting them to show their support for animals and reminding them that  with a general election on the horizon, broken promises or missed opportunities to stop animals suffering will matter to a great many voters at the ballot box.

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