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Political parties urged to unleash ‘Paw Power’ as animal welfare emerges as potential swing issue

Humane Society International UK

Humane Society International UK | Humane Society International UK

4 min read Partner content

Polling data reveals cracking down on animal cruelty could be a seat winning pledge in marginal constituencies as 23 leading animal groups launch new campaign

With the general election just weeks away, UK political parties are being urged to harness the untapped ‘paw power’ of animal-loving voters after a new report shows that political parties are failing to match the British public’s high level of demand for strong animal protection policies. Analysis of opinion poll data suggests there are opportunities for candidates pledging anti-cruelty policy actions to influence thousands of animal-loving voters, especially in tightly contested seats. 

The report analyses several national opinion polls, including constituency-level MRP polling. It concludes that despite a supermajority of public support for progressive policies to prevent animal cruelty, voters’ expectations are insufficiently reflected in British political discourse, policy commitments and government policymaking. In a 2023 YouGov poll, nearly one third (33%) selected animal welfare as one of their top three most important causes and Focaldata 2023 polling revealed that one in six (15.4%) ranked ‘whether or not a party will protect animals from cruelty’ as one of their top three most important policies that will influence which party they vote for. 

Analysis of the top ten target seats for major parties reveals that while the top Labour target seat requires only a 128-vote swing, and the top Conservative target seat requires just a 66-vote swing, more than 3,800 people in those constituencies have signed a sample of ten government e-petitions on animal protection between 2017-19 alone. 

Dr Steven McCulloch, Senior Lecturer in Human-Animal Studies at the University of Winchester, said “Polls consistently show supermajority levels of support for stronger animal protection laws across England, Scotland and Wales, and for voters of all main political parties. And one in six British voters place animal protection within the top three concerns that will influence their vote.”   Paul Chaney, professor of policy and politics at Cardiff University School of Social Sciences noted “Parties and candidates with a strong offer to tackle animal cruelty could speak to a significant cohort of voters in the upcoming election. Additionally, polling indicates that such policies provide indications to voters on parties’ and candidates’ broader values, including association with competence and compassion.” 

The report coincides with the launch of ‘Crackdown on Cruelty’, a joint campaign by more than 20 leading animal protection organisations. The groups aim to mobilise half a million compassionate voters to contact their candidates and urge them to commit to be a voice for animals in Parliament if elected.  

Candidates are being called on to pledge to 10 key commitments which would strengthen legal protections for millions of animals, such as bans on trading in cruelty including stopping imports of fur and hunting trophies, government support to help farmers transition away from factory farming, stronger protections for wildlife including a ban on snares in England, and the appointment of an Animal Protection Commissioner. Pledge commitments will be shared on the website, which will also host copies of animal protection pledges made by major political parties in their manifestos. 

Claire Bass, Senior Director of Campaigns and Public Affairs at Humane Society International/UK, said: “We identify as a nation of animal lovers and there is keen voter interest in politicians cracking down on cruelty, so we’re urging parties and candidates to pledge action. On 4th July we’ll see thousands of dogs proudly posing outside polling stations, but parties are not so far  unleashing paw power at the ballot box. MPs elected in July will hear from their constituents about animal protection more than any other issue, so progressive animal protection policies could very well help swing voting decisions.” 

The report, titled ‘Political animals’ and authored by Dr Steven McCulloch, Dr Lisa Riley and Professor Paul Chaney, from Winchester and Cardiff Universities, is fully referenced and available to view here.


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