What Every Animal-Lover Needs to Know About the 2015 General Election Manifestos

Sam Gilbert By Sam Gilbert

What will the forthcoming General Election mean for animals? We reviewed the manifestos of all the major parties to find out.

1. Dogs & Cats

The Green Party has by far the most comprehensive set of proposals affecting dogs and cats. Pages 16 & 17 of their manifesto set out measures to protect dogs' welfare and regulate the pet trade. These include:

  • Updating laws on selling animals, particularly around online advertising
  • Introducing mandatory licensing of pet breeders
  • Introducing controls on breeding which creates "exaggerated characteristics likely to cause suffering", such as brachycephaly
  • Ending puppy farming and the use of electric shock collars
  • Taking more action on dog fighting

The Green Party also proposes to increase protection for greyhounds through a formal review of greyhound racing, and to end the use of dogs and cats in non-medical experiments and military training. Full details are in their separate Animal Manifesto.

Echoing The Greens, The Liberal Democrats promise to "review the rules surrounding the sale of pets to ensure they promote responsible breeding". Meanwhile, Labour offers a broad pledge to "improve the protection of dogs and cats" with more detail in a separate mini manifesto on animals. Finally, UKIP focuses on tougher jail sentences for people convicted of animal cruelty.

Credit here to The Dogs Trust, whose 2015 General Election Dog Manifesto seems to have been influential on Labour, The Greens, and The Liberal Democrats.

2. Exotic Pets

The Green Party would ban the import of "exotic pets" and make it illegal to keep monkeys as household pets.

The technical definition of an "exotic pet" is any animal that is not native to the Britsh Isles (including hamsters and rabbits); but it isn't clear whether the import ban would extend to all animals meeting this definition.

Contrary to some reports, the Greens are not proposing to ban keeping pet rabbits in hutches - their proposals on hen and rabbit cages relate to farming.

3. Wild Animals

All the main parties are pledging support for continued action to curb the international wildlife trade and wildlife crime - particularly opposing poaching of rhinos, elephants, and tigers.

Similarly, all parties (apart from The Liberal Democrats & UKIP) are proposing a ban on wild animals in circuses.

4. Horses

The Green Party would review Horse Racing and end the use of the whip.

5. The Badger Cull

Both Labour and The Greens would end the "ineffective and cruel" badger cull.

6. Hunting, Shooting, and Fishing

The Conservatives pledge to protect hunting, shooting, and fishing, and will hold a free vote on overturning the Hunting Act (which banned fox hunting in 2004).

Labour, by contrast, would defend the hunting ban, while The Greens would extend it to cover all hunting of animals for sport - including grouse shooting.

7. Animal Research & Testing

The Conservatives say they 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", while The Liberal Democrats and UKIP would both seek to minimise the use of animals in scientific experiments.

The Greens go further still, arguing for an end to all animal experiments and increased funding for non-animal research methods.

What about the SNP and Plaid Cymru?

Responsibility for animal welfare in Scotland is devolved to the Scottish Parliament where the SNP is in government, but The SNP promises support for action in Westminster to end the ivory trade and protect endangered species like polar bears and bluefin tuna.

Plaid Cymru's only comments about animals are that they will "support the introduction of a

European-level Animal Welfare Commissioner" and "support adoption at all government levels of the new and comprehensive Animal Welfare law to end animal cruelty".

Why aren't policies about animals in farming included in this review?

These have received comprehensive mainstream press coverage elsewhere - for example, in the Rural Affairs section of the BBC's Policy Guide.

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