Why it’s time for Conservative animal rights advocates to step up

Party sorting

The process of party sorting has major implications for political dynamics and governance. As individuals and groups reorganize themselves politically based on their ideological beliefs, the risk of polarization increases as individuals and parties become less willing to compromise or cooperate across party lines. Partisan gerrymandering means that many policies fail to win sufficient support.1 Look at the difficulties of passing the lightest gun control legislation in the United States of America.

If portraying animal protection laws as left-wing laws becomes normalized, we may see a new partisan sorting: left-wing voters accept animal advocacy for their supported causes; Right-wing partisans adopt the political position of blanket rejection of the case(s) raised. Once this happens, animal protection laws are thrown around the contested political space in the middle of our Overton window. If bolder laws are enacted, they risk being overturned after a change of government – see what partisanship has done to abortion legislation in the USA, where politicization has led to the repeal of previously granted abortion rights in some Republican-led states.

If partisanship creeps into animal rights issues, any UK laws introduced by Labor may later be overturned by the Conservatives.

Ownership version

If animal legislative gains are to prove long-lasting, left-wing parties should not take ownership of the issue of animal welfare and rights. Conservation animal advocates are vitally important, and there is no reason to diminish their support.

Conservative politicians often prioritize economic prosperity and fiscal responsibility – and animal welfare legislation, when crafted effectively, can align with these priorities – and many Tory MPs represent rural constituencies where agriculture and animal husbandry play an important role in the local economy and culture . Improving animal welfare standards can increase productivity in agriculture and enhance consumer confidence in ethical products.

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

A cross-party political movement on behalf of animals that mobilizes broad support will prove largely effective in strengthening animal protections in our legal system, precisely because it is able to avoid the trappings of partisan filtering.

To be right (wing) may be right

There’s an argument to be made that it’s actually the right-wing animal advocate who has a better chance of breaking through the political gridlock and convincing fellow politicians (conservatives or otherwise) to support bolder animal protection laws. With polls and pundits alike predicting a landslide defeat for the Conservatives in the next general election, and given widespread support from the British public for tackling animal abuse, could a Tory-led move to improve animal welfare be part of a rebuilding strategy? one of them the win Politicians are very keen on.

David Holroyd is an author, animal rights activist and honorary member of the Animal Rights Society Oxford Center for Animal Ethics.

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