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AGENDA FOR CHANGE
Posted 22 February 2008
Prior to coming to power in 1997, Labour published a brochure called New Labour: New Life for Animals. Expectations were high, given the multitude of welfare advances the document promised. There have been some gains during the last 11 years - notably, a ban on hunting (thanks to the staunchness of parliamentary backbenchers rather than of the government itself); a voluntary agreement to prohibit the use of animals for testing cosmetic products and ingredients; and an end to fur farming in Britain. But these have been outweighed by the setbacks - including a failure to enforce the hunting ban. There has also been a massive increase in animal experimentation and the use of public funds to bankroll it; a broken promise to initiate a Royal Commission into the validity of animal research; inaction on live exports; the continued financial and political support for ever more extreme methods of farmed animal production; and the active promotion of ‘gamebird’ production and shooting. Added to this is the government’s unrelenting campaign to vilify and criminalise peaceful animal protest.
We now learn that Gordon Brown has ordered one of Labour’s Deputy Chairs, Ian Cawsey (an MP with a respectable animal welfare record), to produce a revised version of New Life for Animals. We recently met with Mr Cawsey and followed up those discussions by sending him a copy of our new policy statement that we call Agenda For Change. It is a wide-ranging document, which details the fundamental shifts that animal rights activists are looking for in the political, social and economic domains. It is also calling for a range of legislative initiatives that would make a world of difference to millions of animals in the short to medium term. Agenda For Change speaks of the plight of farmed animals; of those used in ‘scientific’ research; as well as the victims of the sport, pet and leisure industries.
We don’t forget the political betrayals of past years and we recognise that governments lag behind the public on animal welfare - moving only when shoved. That is why Animal Aid concentrates on shifting the way that ‘ordinary people’ think and act - by revelation, protest, education, reasoned argument and by example. But we cannot give up on the political process, because there always remains the hope of genuine advances via that route.