LIVING WITHOUT CRUELTY
Votes for animals
That the battle to secure a ban on hunting with dogs finally ended in victory was no thanks to a vacillating, two-faced Blair government. Rather, thanks are due to a hard core of mostly Labour backbenchers whose stoic resoluteness in the face of bullying from their Party whips finally saw the Hunting Act get Royal Assent. And herein lies a lesson best borne in mind in this general election season.
Governments cannot be trusted. They are opportunistic and easily corrupted. Some individual MPs, by contrast, are more likely - on occasion - to be driven by conscience. They will disobey their masters and do what they believe to be right. We need to be able to identify and support such individuals. In fact, we need many more of them in both Houses. Positive legislative change depends upon it. How do we achieve such an outcome?
Many of you will have some experience of your own MP and of his or her local opponents from the other main parties. That experience will inform your voting decision. Most of us, however, know little of our local MP's views on issues relating to factory farming, vivisection, fur and the rest. There is no foolproof way - certainly in terms of the national picture - of cutting through the murk. But Animal Aid is has launched an initiative that should make the task easier.
Because very little animal welfare-enhancing legislation is generated by parliament, examining MPs' voting in this regard is of limited use. The notable recent exception is the Hunting Act itself.
Because of the paucity of pro-animal legislative action, we decided to examine MPs' voting records on statements of principle known as Early Day Motions (EDMs). These are tabled throughout the parliamentary term by MPs with a concern about a particular issue. They come with an invitation to others in the House to add their endorsement. EDMs invariably achieve cross-party support and provide opportunities for Members to sign up to a call for action that often runs counter to their own party's stated policy.
It is by looking at all recent welfare-related EDMs and seeing who signed them that we have been able to rate - in admittedly rough terms - Members' commitment to animal protection. Some have signed 10 animal EDMs. They get 10 points, and another for every EDM they actually tabled. Many MPs have signed none. They get zero points. Click here to find out how your MP fared.
Protecting Animals in Democracy
There are, of course, candidates for the hundreds of UK-wide constituencies who - not being in the House - will have been unable to sign any EDMs or vote to ban hunting.
You will be able to put your own candidates to the test by encouraging them to respond online to a series of questions posed as part of a major electoral initiative undertaken by the anti-vivisection group, Uncaged Campaigns.
Called Protecting Animals In Democracy (PAD), the most innovative and user-friendly aspect of the PAD website is that it enables the public directly to lobby candidates on six key issues that are likely to remain on the political agenda during the next parliament.
You can participate in the PAD campaign at www.vote4animals.org.uk.
Putting animals on the agenda
The prospects of getting animal-friendly MPs into the House - as opposed to party hacks - will be improved immeasurably by the introduction of a proportional representation (PR) voting system.
The Liberal Democrats and the Green Party are committed to this constitutional change, while it can be fairly added that the Greens have the most impressive animal-friendly policy of any major party. But the choice is yours. There is more than one reason for offering or withholding your vote from a given candidate. Animal Aid's objective is to help signpost the way and to do whatever we can to put animals on the agenda during the upcoming election season.