I’m using my vote for dogs like Susie-Belle
Recently I’ve broken a self-imposed, rather coy, rule on how I use (and enjoy) social media. I’ve been talking politics. Always a sticky topic and one I tend to share only with my closest friends, and even those rarely get me talking much on it. My reticence about discussing political parties in particular is not a lack of interest; I am politically engaged and come from a family where politics has always been debated; my grandfather, who I spent a lot of time with, held strong political views, which ran counter to much of what I heard from other family members. He taught me to think for myself and not to follow blindly, any family or party line. But with social media, so much gets misunderstood, misinterpreted and easily distorted that it’s a subject I prefer not to get into publicly.
However, with a General Election in the UK in two weeks time, I’m putting aside my normal restraint on this topic because it is the one opportunity we have to bring in a government that will do better for the animals than what we have had under the Conservative-Liberal coalition for the past five years. Like it or not, to end puppy farming, engagement in the political process is needed, alongside education of the buying public and all the other threads that make up the campaign. Effective activism requires us all to use our votes wisely. If in doubt, take a look at what is happening in Australia: in the state of Victoria, the election of a new government, with a committed new Minister, Jaala Pulford, has fast tracked legislation that it is anticipated will “break the business model” of the puppy farms in the state. Read more here. It’s always the politicians that have the powers to change things. And we have the votes to bring in the politicians the animals deserve.
The parliamentary debate that Pup Aid brought about in September last year was a perfect opportunity for the government to make a significant contribution to ending puppy farming, yet they failed to act. Although there were MPs from across the political spectrum speaking in favour of making it illegal to sell puppies and kittens in petshops and other outlets like garden centres, George Eustice, speaking for the government declined to make this change.
I sat through the debate and whilst it was great to see puppy farming being debated in the heart of political power, and many MPs speaking up for the dogs, the outcome was disappointing. Following it, I found some comments revealed what an uphill task is faced by those of us who care to give animals a better future. This for example, from Conservative MP, Phillip Lee speaking a week later
“To have discussed puppy farming and hospital parking last week was a disgrace. I am ashamed of this Chamber and the way it must look to the wider community”.
OK, he was arguing that time should be spent debating international problems like ISIS, but he missed the point that the puppy farming debate mattered to enough people that it was an entirely public-generated debate and our MPs are meant to represent their constituents. It may be shameful to him to discuss ways to end animal cruelty, but it’s what large numbers of the public want legislators to do.
In this month’s Dogs Today magazine there’s a good piece by Victoria Heywood outlining each of the parties positions when it comes to animal welfare and dogs. If you want a succinct overview it’s well worth reading. And if you’re even thinking about voting UKIP and care about ending puppy farming, perhaps this from their spokesperson will change your mind:
“We can’t have a policy on everything I’m afraid, but I can confirm that UKIP is totally against animal cruelty. Given the number of unhomed dogs, many of which are put down because they can’t find an owner, it does seem odd that puppy farms should exist, though I assume that this is because many of them are producing specialised pedigree breeds for which there is a commercial market”.
As Dogs Today say, this reveals a complete lack of understanding of the topic and the problems faced by dogs in the UK right now. It doesn’t surprise me though, it’s in line with UKIP’s attitudes to most matters where even a faint trace of compassion might be required.
The Labour Party have produced a Protecting Animals Manifesto and they pledge to do a number of long awaited things to protect animals. When it comes to puppy farming, it is a bit woolly as it’s just a review that’s promised, but it’s more than the Conservatives have said they’ll do, or indeed have done in the last five years. Better than nothing and I’ll take any scraps right now to stop groaning pessimism getting the better of me.
When it comes to the Conservatives, this post from C.A.R.I.A.D back in January was revealing when it comes to DEFRA and what it has, or more accurately has not done for animals during its term in office. This excerpt gives a flavour of the attitude of Lord de Maulay, the chap in charge:
In 2012 at a highly publicised meeting with interested parties and MPs on dog Control and Welfare, when asked by MP Margaret Ritchie, “Have you given any thought to what knowledge or how the Department is likely to act on irresponsible breeders, knowing full well that there is a need to do such a thing?
Lord de Mauley responded:
“…we think that the law on dog breeding already provides local authorities with the powers to tackle the problems that you are referring to. The larger dog breeding establishments clearly require licensing: the smaller ones are subject anyway to the Animal Welfare Act. That gives the local authorities the powers to respond to welfare concerns, under the Act.”
Sadly this is the argument we continue to hear from Defra today. Everything’s alright Jack.
But it isn’t. It isn’t even close to being alright. And that’s because those local authorities who have the ‘power’ to tackle the problems, don’t actually have an obligation to use that power.
So, if in 2 weeks time we get a Conservative government for another 5 years, there will be more of this. The status quo for dogs will continue. I will be bitterly disheartened but not despairing, as I’m in this fight to end puppy farming for as long as it takes. Which, if we elect the right set of politicians, could make it a shorter fight, than if we get a repeat of anything like we’ve had sat in Westminster for the past five years.
For more on the stances of each political party visit Animal Aid