Animal Welfare Issues Are Key To Labour And Conservatives
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Animal Welfare Issues Are Key To Labour And Conservatives

Animal Welfare Issues Are Key To Labour And Conservatives. Hello everyone, I hope you are well. In today’s post, I will be sharing a guest post from David Holroyd from the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics. David will be exploring why we need Conservative, not Labour, animal advocates – regardless of the results of the next General Election. Few pundits expect a victory for Rishi Sunak’s Conservatives in the upcoming 2024 General Election. We need to wait until party manifestos are released, but many animal advocates hope that a more left-wing government will support bolder laws to protect animals in Britain. They shouldn’t ignore Conservatives, however.

Animal Welfare Issues Are Key To Labour And Conservatives

With the prospect of a more left-wing government in Westminster, many animal advocates will be hoping for bolder laws to protect animals in the UK. However, they shouldn’t ignore Conservatives because concepts like animal rights are compatible with positions across the political spectrum. Allowing a stereotype of animal welfare as a left-leaning pastime can significantly harm efforts to bring about greater legal protection for animals in this country.

Whether one cares about animal welfare/rights in general or has a specific cause to champion, the goal of the animal advocacy movement is to push animal welfare issues into the politically contested space and then cement policies into law to the point where revoking them is unthinkable for the mainstream parties. And keeping the issues ‘depoliticised’ is vital.

Partisan Sorting

The process of partisan sorting has significant implications for political dynamics and governance. As individuals and groups realign themselves politically based on their ideological beliefs, the risk of polarisation increases as individuals and parties become less willing to compromise or collaborate across party lines. Partisan sorting means many policies fail to win sufficient support.[1] Look at the difficulties of passing the mildest gun control legislation in the USA.

If the stereotype of animal-loving vegans translates into a general portrayal of animal-protective laws as left-wing, then we could witness new partisan sorting. Some left-wing voters might accept animal advocacy into their list of supported causes. In contrast, right-wing partisans adopt the political stance of blanket rejection of the case(s) being made. Once this happens, laws protecting animals get jostled around the contested political space. And should bolder laws be introduced, they risk being revoked following a changeover in government – look at what partisan sorting has done to abortion legislation in the USA, where politicisation has resulted in previously granted abortion rights being revoked in some Republican-led states. It should be noted that the same effect has generally not occurred in Western European democracies where the topic does not trigger comparable partisan rivalry.

Political scientists have observed that partisan cues tend to mobilise opposition to policies more than support.[2] For example, a socialist’s endorsement of Universal Basic Income tends to diminish support for that policy among conservatives more than it increases support among fellow socialists. This effect is especially strong where two major parties dominate a political system. A partisan framing of animal-protective laws would likely alienate more right-wing voters than it would attract left-wing ones. If partisan sorting like this becomes entrenched, then any UK laws introduced by a Labour government might be revoked by a later Conservative one.

Issue Ownership

If legislative gains for animals are to prove long-lasting, then left-wing parties must not acquire issue ownership of animal welfare and rights. Conservative animal advocates are very important, and there is no reason for their support to be muted.

Conservative politicians often prioritise economic prosperity and fiscal responsibility—when framed effectively, animal welfare legislation can align with these priorities—and many Tory MPs represent rural constituencies where agriculture and animal husbandry play a significant role in the local economy and culture. Improved animal welfare standards can lead to increased productivity in agriculture and enhanced consumer confidence in ethical products.

Additionally, humans’ and animals’ health and well-being are closely intertwined. Politicians and voters of all persuasions are increasingly aware of the public health risks associated with poor animal welfare practices, such as the spread of zoonotic diseases and antibiotic resistance. Supporting initiatives to improve animal welfare is increasingly viewed as a proactive measure to safeguard public health and reduce the incidence of preventable diseases.

A cross-partisan political movement for animals that harnesses broad support will prove vastly more effective in consolidating animal-protective measures into our legal system precisely because it can avoid the trappings of partisan sorting.

Being Right (Wing) May Be Right

There is an argument to be made that the right-wing animal advocate stands a better chance of breaking through political deadlock and persuading their fellow politicians (Conservative or otherwise) to support bolder laws for protecting animals. And with polling and pundits alike predicting a thrashing for the Conservatives in the next general election, and given the British public’s widespread support for addressing the mistreatment of animals, could a Conservative-led move to improve animal welfare be part of a rebuilding strategy? It’s one of those win-wins politicians are so keen on. For those Conservatives who recognise our moral obligations towards animals, now is the time to speak up.

I hope you enjoyed that.

Talk soon

 

About The Author

David Holroyd presented an earlier version of this paper at the Annual Oxford Animal Ethics Summer School on Animals and the Media: Communicating Ethical Perspectives on Animals held at Merton College, University of Oxford, 2023. The Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics is an independent centre pioneering ethical perspectives on animals through academic research, teaching, and publication. The Centre comprises more than 100 academic Fellows worldwide.

Web: www.oxfordanimalethics.com/home

Instagram: @oxfordanimalethics

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/@oxfordanimalethics

LinkedIn: Dr Clair Linzey – https://www.linkedin.com/in/clair-linzey-ab012272/

[1] Levendusky, M. (2010). The partisan sort: how liberals became democrats and conservatives became republicans. University of Chicago Press.

[2] Aaroe, L. (2012). When citizens go against elite directions: partisan cues and contrast effects on citizens’ attitudes. Party Politics, 18(2), 215–233.

Goren, P., Federico, C. M., & Kittilson, M. C. (2009). Source cues, partisan identities, and political value expression. American Journal of Political Science, 53(4), 805–820.

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16 Comments

  • Bedabrata Chakraborty

    Animal welfare is important. It’s good to see political parties addressing these issues. Thanks for highlighting their stance on animal welfare.

  • Clarice

    This is an interesting topic but to be honest, I have no idea how politics and government work there so, I just hope that that the people would be able to choose the ones who can best uphold the welfare of animals.

  • barbie ritzman

    This is an interesting topic, to say the least. I think protecting animals should be a top priority. Personally, I often find myself caring more about animals than some people, so this is an important topic for me.

  • Nikki Wayne

    This is very a nice explanation of animal welfare and in political view. It now comes to my mind clearer because of this post. And I think many people should read this for the, to have a clearer knowledge about this.

  • Monidipa Dutta

    Your exploration of animal welfare within political spheres is both enlightening and crucial. Your friendly tone and balanced approach make this complex topic accessible and engaging. Well done!

  • Bruce Schinkel

    Nice article calling out for collaboration between seemingly opposing groups. It’s so important to realize the common ground and move forward with something even stronger than 1 side could do alone.

  • Caroline

    I thoroughly enjoyed the read! It’s refreshing to see a balanced look at animal welfare issues in political circumstances. Breaking the notion that such issues are purely left-leaning is critical for gaining wide bipartisan support and implementing long-term change.

  • Kat

    Great insight on the intersection of animal welfare and politics! It’s refreshing to see a discussion about how both Labour and Conservative advocates can contribute positively to this important issue. Looking forward to more thought-provoking content like this.

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