I care about Animal Welfare

Here’s the text of a message I received, asking me “Do you care about animal welfare?” and asking me to complete a survey from the “League Against Cruel Sports”:

Dear Simon Platt,

I am writing to ask your views about animal protection.

Britain has some of the strongest animal welfare laws in the world, but we now risk falling behind:

  • The Hunting Act, which protects wild animals from being chased by packs of dogs, is under threat, despite 84% of the public supporting the ban.
  • Sentences for animal cruelty offences are extremely lenient, with a maximum six months in prison, compared to two to five years in most countries.
  • Court orders banning those convicted of animal welfare offences are unenforceable due to a lack of records.

As a voter who treasures Britain’s animals and natural environment, I would really appreciate if you could take a moment to fill out this survey about your views. [link removed]

Kind regards,

Here’s my reply:

Yes, I do care about animal welfare, very much, and have done since my early childhood. I can’t remember when this subject wasn’t important to me. But I can’t understand why you think “we now risk falling behind”. Could you explain?
I followed the link to your survey, but found it to be from the League Against Cruel Sports. I’m afraid that I do not support that organisation. I think they are misguided and intolerant, and I shan’t be participating in any of their activities, not even completing an online survey.

Hunting Act 2004

I’ve received the following standard petition, with the subject heading “A question from a local constituent: Will you #keeptheban on fox hunting?”

Dear Dr Platt,

I am concerned that Theresa May has promised a vote to repeal the fox hunting ban if the Conservatives win the general election. Please can you tell me:

If there is a vote to repeal the ban, how would you vote?

What is your party’s policy on fox hunting?

I am emailing you via this Care2 petition http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/798/498/031/

Sincerely,

(I actually received eight emails from this petition, all within ten minutes. That was an interesting example of the power of social media. A couple of senders added personal notes. I’ll respond to all eight, soon – it’ll be tomorrow morning, now – with personalised responses as appropriate.)

My standard response is as follows:

I believe that mankind has a responsibility to be good stewards of creation, and to promote animal welfare. It’s partly for that reason, and partly on grounds of liberty and tolerance, that I cannot support your campaign.

I haven’t closely followed discussion of the likelihood of repeal of the Hunting Act, although I am aware that there has been some speculation. I think that’s unlikely to be a government priority in view of the important constitutional matters that are bound to preoccupy parliament for at least the next two years and possibly longer. In a way I think that’s a shame; as Preston’s MP I would certainly vote for its repeal and for the legalisation of hunting once again. I’ve never hunted myself, and there are no hunts very close to Preston although I think there is or was one in Bowland and another based near Chorley. My own sport has always been fishing; and I’m looking forward to spending time on the bank again soon, once the election campaign is over and the coarse-fishing season begins.

And people shouldn’t be concerned about the prospect of a vote in parliament. That would be an example of our democratic system in operation. MPs would be able to review the operation of the Hunting Act, a little over a decade since it came into force. They would also be able to take representation from constituents and other interested parties and come to a consensus view. Surely that is not a bad thing? (As I say, I am sure that government time would not be made available for repeal of the hunting Act, but it is always possible for a suitable Private Members’ Bill to be introduced.)

I’m not aware of any UKIP policy on hunting. It’s certainly not a UKIP priority. If there were such a policy, however, it wouldn’t change my view: I would vote to repeal the Hunting Act. And this is something we can do in UKIP. Elected representatives and candidates from UKIP are encouraged to have their own minds; our councillors are not whipped, and we candidates were briefed recently “if there’s something in UKIP policy that you don’t agree with, don’t hide the fact”. I have few reservations about UKIP policy – our manifesto is superb – but I have no hesitation in speaking my own mind when I do. That’s the UKIP way; one of the things that sets us apart from the old parties.

I opposed the ban on hunting in 2004 – I was a member of the Countryside Alliance – and I oppose it now. I think that fox hunting is a humane way of pest control; the best for the welfare of the fox population as a whole and of individual foxes, too. (The concern is usually about fox hunting, although the Hunting Act has wider scope than that.)  Although I have never hunted myself, and although I am seeking to represent an urban constituency where nobody hunts, I have absolutely no objection to those who take pleasure in doing so. I want to live in a society that is tolerant enough to take the same view as me.

I think the ban on hunting should be repealed.

People are welcome to contact me in this way; I’ll do my best to respond, whether or not I agree with the petitioners, and post my responses here, for all to see.

My pledge on protecting animals

I’ve received the following standard petition, with the subject heading “Will you pledge to protect animals?”

Dear Candidate,

On June 8th, like many millions of other people, my vote will be influenced by a desire to see Parliament better protect animals. I am writing to ask whether, if elected as my MP, you would be a positive voice for animals, both locally and in Westminster.

Specifically, I would like to ask if you are willing to pledge the commitments set out by leading animal protection groups at www.animalprotection2017.org.uk:

1. Defend animal protection laws and regulations, and to strengthen them where appropriate, including the Animal Welfare Act, the Hunting Act, the Protection of Badgers Act, the Wildlife and Countryside Act, and the Welfare of Farmed Animals regulations; and

2. Send a strong signal about your commitment to protecting animals by supporting the introduction of an official national database of convicted animal abusers, and an increase in animal cruelty sentences to up to 5 years in jail.

A Party’s policies for animals can be a good reflection of how it views vulnerable members of our society. I hope that you will commit to speaking out for those without a voice.

Sincerely,

My response was as follows

I’ve been an animal lover since a very early age; I think probably starting with my first pet rabbit, but reinforced especially once I started fishing, as a young lad, a pastime which took me out into the country and gave me the great pleasure of quietly observing and interacting with farm animals and wildlife of many kinds – not just fish. As I have grown up, I have come to realise that all of creation is precious, and that mankind’s duty is to be good stewards. For example, my family always avoids eating food from intensively farmed livestock.

I am familiar with some of the legislation your campaign supports, I know of no objection to the Animal Welfare Act or the Welfare of Farmed Animals regulations and I think the Protection of Badgers Act is uncontroversial and widely supported. I strongly support the aims of the Wildlife and Countryside Act. Perhaps you are aware that it is UKIP’s policy that all legislation deriving from EU directives will be retained in the first instance and only considered for repeal or revision subsequently. I don’t think it’s likely there will be any attempt in the foreseeable future to repeal or weaken animal protection legislation, and I can’t imagine my supporting any such attempt.

But the Hunting Act is different. I would certainly vote to repeal it. I think it is illiberal and counterproductive.

I suppose my reply will not please you. Thank you, nonetheless, for taking the trouble to contact me. One of my main concerns in this general election campaign is that politicians are failing to engage people, especially in Preston, and so I welcome interaction. I see that your email comes to me via a campaigning website, and I know that some MPs resent that (probably they get more email than me), but I’m very happy with it: perhaps you know that UKIP stands for more direct democracy.

I can assure you that my difference of opinion with your campaign is not because I don’t care. Animal welfare is very important to me.

People are welcome to contact me in this way; I’ll do my best to respond, whether or not I agree with the petitioners, and post my responses here, for all to see.