Around the manifestos

With just two weeks to go, OneKind takes a look at the General Election manifestos to see what commitments are being made for animals.

The good news is that most parties do make some mention of animal welfare, and some already have longstanding policy commitments.  But there are, it seems, many different views of what animal welfare really means …

The parties within the devolved administrations – such as the Scottish Greens, Scottish Labour and  Scottish Liberal Democrats make little reference to animal welfare in their Westminster manifestos.  This is probably because these parties deal with animal welfare at the devolved level – and so for fairness we have removed them from this analysis.  We do however include the independent parties SNP and Plaid Cymru who would otherwise not be represented.

The Labour Party was first into the race in February with a dedicated Animal Welfare Manifesto. Labour pledged to review the rules on breeding and selling dogs and cats, ban wild animals in circuses, end the badger cull, defend the Hunting Act, reduce animal cruelty on shooting estates and – like several other parties – lead the fight against global animal cruelty.

Labour intends to review the practice of snaring, although it stops short of pledging a ban. Regarding shooting estates, a Labour government would “undertake an independent review” on how to end the illegal persecution of birds of prey, such as the hen harrier; prevent non-target animals getting trapped in snares; and ensure the humane treatment of game birds.

Labour says it would lead international efforts to combat illegal wildlife crime and would push to end all commercial whaling, and prevent the poaching and near extinction of endangered species such as elephants, rhinos and tigers.

The main Labour Manifesto reprises the animal welfare pledges:

“We will build on our strong record on animal welfare – starting with an end to the Government’s ineffective and cruel badger cull. We will improve the protection of dogs and cats, ban wild animals in circuses, defend the hunting ban and deal with wildlife crime associated with shooting.”

The Conservative Party manifesto sends out a mixed message on welfare.  There are a number of detailed and specific commitments, such as a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses, but also a commitment to foxhunting and to upholding the use of non-stun slaughter in UK slaughterhouses.

“The quality of the food on your plate, and the economic security of our farmers, depend on us upholding the highest standards of animal welfare. We will push for high animal welfare standards to be incorporated into international trade agreements and into reform of the Common Agricultural Policy.”

“We will ban wild animals in circuses and press for all EU member states to ensure that animals are only sent to slaughterhouses that meet high welfare standards. We will encourage other countries to follow the EU’s lead in banning animal testing for cosmetics and work to accelerate the global development and take-up of alternatives to animal testing where appropriate.”

On slaughter: “We want people to integrate fully into British society, but that does not mean they should have to give up the things they hold dear in their religion. So while we will always make sure the Food Standards Agency properly regulates the slaughter of livestock and poultry, we will protect methods of religious slaughter, such as shechita and halal.”

The Conservatives also declare their commitment to tackling the illegal international wildlife trade and ending the poaching that kills thousands of rhinos, elephants and tigers each year. In addition:

“We will oppose any resumption of commercial whaling, and seek further measures at the EU and internationally to end shark-finning. We will promote effective worldwide measures for tuna conservation, press for a total ban on ivory sales, and support the Indian Government in its efforts to protect the Asian elephant.

“We will press for full ‘endangered species’ status for polar bears and a ban on the international trade in polar bear skins, as well as for greater attention to be paid to the impact of climate change on wildlife and habitats in Polar Regions in the Arctic Council and other international fora.

Domestically, however:

“We will protect hunting, shooting and fishing, for all the benefits to individuals, the environment and the rural economy that these activities bring. A Conservative Government will give Parliament the opportunity to repeal the Hunting Act on a free vote, with a government bill in government time.

By contrast, the Green Party would maintain the ban on hunting and add a ban on snaring.

The Greens have by far the most comprehensive section on animal protection – too long to reproduce here – covering many of the policy issues of concern to OneKind.  For example, there are detailed measures to mitigate the problems of industrial farming:

“Sustainable farming means animals freed from cages and returned to the land. We will end factory farming and enforce strict animal welfare standards.

“One particularly constructive proposal is for the creation of a new Commission on Animal Protection, which would cover animal protection issues in all the areas specifically addressed below.

There is a commitment to fight wildlife crime and a proposal to ban the import of exotic pets and the keeping of primates as household pets. The Green Party has been strongly opposed to the badger cull from the outset, saying that all the evidence showed it would be both inhumane and ineffective at tackling bovine tuberculosis.

Greens want to see an end to all animal experimentation and would ensure that research funding is directed away from failing animal disease models and towards modern human biology-based techniques.

The Liberal Democrat manifesto contains a section entitled “Protecting nature”, which says:

“Liberal Democrats believe in the highest standards of animal welfare. We will review the rules surrounding the sale of pets to ensure they promote responsible breeding and sales and minimise the use of animals in scientific experimentation, including by funding research into alternatives. We remain committed to the three Rs of humane animal research: Replace, Reduce, Refine.”

On farming, the Liberal Democrats pledge to continue to improve standards of animal welfare, and to review the use of cages, crates and routine preventative antibiotics. They also say they would introduce effective, science-led ways of controlling bovine TB and only support extending the existing cull pilots if they are shown to be effective, humane and safe.

The SNP manifesto mentions issues that are current in the Scottish Parliament and states that it will support measures to improve welfare with a global focus.  It does not say what the party’s position would be on domestic issues affecting England, such as wild animals in circuses or a potential repeal of the Hunting Act.

In a section entitled Species Protection, the manifesto says:

“While responsibility for animal welfare is devolved to the Scottish Parliament –and the SNP in government is already working to improve the conditions of kept animals, including consultations on responsible dog ownership and wild animals in travelling circuses, and giving consideration to further protection at slaughter, the registration or licensing of horse establishments and a review of tail docking in working dogs – at Westminster we will support further animal welfare measures with a global focus. This includes action to end the illegal ivory trade and protect species such as polar bears and bluefin tuna.

In its farming manifesto Plaid Cymru also seeks clear and unambiguous food labelling. The main Plaid manifesto contains little on animal welfare, presumably because, as in Scotland, this is a devolved issue.  Plaid does make an EU level commitment – “We support the introduction of a European-level Animal Welfare Commissioner and adoption at all government levels of the new and comprehensive Animal Welfare law to end animal cruelty.”

UKIP supports country of origin food labelling, to include  information about whether an animal was stunned before slaughter.  It also pledges to increase penalties for animal cruelty, tightly regulate animal testing and keep the ban on animal testing for cosmetics, challenge companies using animals for testing drugs or other medical treatments on the necessity for this form of testing, ban the export of live animals for slaughter, insist on formal non-stun training and certification for all religious slaughtermen and enforce the highest standards, install CCTV in every abattoir and deal severely with any contraventions and to end the slaughter of dolphins by banning pair trawler fishing for bass.

One more thing – OneKind has its own animal welfare manifesto which you can read here.  And please take the OneKind election action and ask your candidates to sign our animal welfare pledge.

We think every candidate needs to be told that animal welfare is a priority for voters. Loud and clear.

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