Theresa May’s declaration of support for fox hunting and her commitment to a vote on the repeal of the Hunting Act in England and Wales has been one of the most talked about issues in the election campaign so far. Buzzfeed report that the bizarre move by the Prime Minster was even in the top five election stories shared online.
Now polling by Survation commissioned by the League Against Cruel Sports suggests that this interest in animal protection amongst voters is more than skin deep. It found that not only do a clear majority (67%) continue to oppose the legalisation of fox hunting, half of all voters are less likely to vote for a candidate in the general election who wants to make fox hunting legal again. Here in Scotland, the number is even higher at 55%.
So, the public care deeply about animal protection and they expect politicians to do so too. It’s not news to us, but for some reason it seems to be for politicians. Too often, animal welfare is reduced to a passing reference in manifestos and it rarely, if ever, is raised by journalists who have the opportunity to quiz candidates and leaders during the campaign. But this time round, animal welfare has featured quite strongly in some of the manifestos. Here’s a summary, starting with the manifestos that gave animal welfare the most column inches and going down from there!
[***Health warning*** animal welfare is devolved to Scotland and the main general election manifestos deal with Westminster issues, so clearly every Party has not set out their ambitions for animal welfare in full, however Scottish manifestos have been published too and these refer to devolved issues. As the SNP only stand in Scotland they have only published one manifesto, but it does cover some devolved issues too.]
Animal welfare word count – 136 words (Scotland)/ 130 words (UK)
Animal welfare features strongly in the Labour manifestos, receiving a whole page in the Scottish Labour manifesto. It includes some welcome high-level language about the importance of animal welfare and the need for better enforcement. The key commitments made are: a ban on puppy dealing (‘third party sales’), a total ban on ivory trading, a ban on wild animals in circuses, an end to the badger cull and to snaring, and support for a continued ban on fox hunting. The same commitments are made for Scotland.
Scottish Liberal Democrats
Animal welfare word count – 94 words (UK)/ 62 words (Scotland)
The Liberal Democrats include animal welfare commitments in the nature and farming sections of their manifestos. In England and Wales, they commit to introduce stronger penalties for animal cruelty offences, bring in a ban on caged hens, tackle illegal pet sales and to minimise the use of animals in science. They also promise to improve farm animal welfare by updating the welfare codes, which only a few years ago the Government threatened to abolish. They are also the only party to note the threat posed to farm animal welfare by Brexit, committing to high welfare standards in any new trade deals.
Disappointingly, the Scottish Liberal Democrats miss out some of the commitments to stronger penalties, a ban on caged hens, and improving the animal welfare codes.
The Scottish Conservatives
Animal welfare word count – 44 words (Scotland)/50 words (UK)
The Conservative manifesto features commitments to make CCTV mandatory in slaughterhouses, reform pet vending rules and to address live exports alongside their pledge to hold a vote on the repeal of the Hunting Act. Oddly, this is all in the section entitled “our countryside communities”. These commitments all deal with devolved powers, so it is disappointing that the Scottish Conservative does not reiterate them for Scotland in the countryside communities section of their manifesto.
The one reference made by the Scottish Conservatives to animal protection in their manifesto is important, however. They welcome the Bonomy review of the Act that was meant to have banned fox hunting in Scotland. The review puts forward a series of recommendations to tighten the law, which the Scottish Conservatives appear to be backing. This is welcome; OneKind would like to see fox hunting banned rather than regulated in Scotland but it is encouraging to see the Scottish Conservatives take a more progressive position than their counterparts in Westminster.
Animal welfare word count – 12 words
Animal welfare is absent from the SNP manifesto but for the words themselves and the following commitment: “We will oppose any relaxation of the laws on fox-hunting”. Welcome, of course, but surely the SNP has more to say about animal welfare after ten years in Government in Scotland? Particularly notable by its absence was any reference to the fox hunting ban in Scotland, which is currently under review. A shame that Nicola Sturgeon’s own words from just a few weeks ago weren’t simply copied and pasted:
“I have always been an opponent of fox hunting and remain an opponent of fox hunting… Be under no doubt at all this government opposes fox hunting and that’s the position we have long taken and the position we continue to take.”
The Scottish Greens
Animal welfare word count – none (Scotland)/a entire manifesto (England and Wales)
The Scottish Greens have a good record defending animals and advocating better protection in the Scottish Parliament, but animal welfare is omitted in their manifesto this time round. Their manifesto is, however, a short document given they are not fielding many candidates. This is what they said when we asked them about the issue:
“We’ve got a proud track record of supporting animal welfare issues in the Scottish Parliament. Specific things done very recently include Patrick Harvie calling for a real ban on foxhunting First Minister’s Questions, Alison Johnstone speaking in support of a ban on snaring and Mark Ruskell opposing the Scottish Government’s retrograde plan to allow healthy puppies’ tails to be amputated… At Westminster, Green MP Caroline Lucas has campaigned to extend bans on fox-hunting to other blood-sports, as well as a wide range of welfare issues, and Scottish Green MPs elected to Westminster would vote against any repeal of hunting bans.”
The Green Party for England and Wales published an entire separate manifesto for England and Wales! Click here to read it.