I am proud that Labour was the only party at the last General Election to put forward a dedicated and comprehensive manifesto on animal welfare.
This manifesto represents years of hard work by campaigners and Labour Party members to push animal welfare up the agenda – and its existence is just one example of the member-led approach to policy making that Labour has pursued in recent years that I want to secure and build upon.
I would also like to pay tribute to the work of my colleague Sue Hayman, who has driven forward Labour’s work on animal welfare and whose presence in our shadow cabinet and front bench is already missed.
As stated in the 2019 Manifesto – from the Hunting Act to the Animal Welfare Act – Labour is the party of animal welfare, with a proud legacy from our time in Government.
So I can commit that as leader, I will maintain the profile of animal welfare within our party, stand firmly behind our existing policy agenda, and take the fight to the Tories, who, despite their warm words on the topic, have enacted the ineffective and inhumane badger cull, cannot be trusted on fox hunting, and are pursuing a deregulatory trade agenda that would have a disastrous impact on animal welfare and food standards.
Of course, animal welfare is important in its own right, and measures like banning foie gras imports, banning live exports for slaughter and ending the use of cages on British farms, do not need further justification beyond the fact they cause animals to suffer unnecessary pain and degradation.
But it also the case that agricultural and landscape management systems that rely upon animal cruelty are associated with the exploitation of agricultural workers and production practices that are environmentally unsustainable, whether due to local pollution or their contribution to the climate crisis.
For example, highly intensive livestock farming is not only an animal welfare issue, but also a major source of local water and air pollution. Giving over landscapes to grouse shooting is not just a welfare issue for game birds, but also contributes to flooding, soil loss and biodiversity loss associated with moorland mismanagement.
We must also acknowledge the link between animal welfare and fairness in society. A common reason for cats and dogs being given up to animal shelters is the refusal of landlords to allow pets – and I would support measures that improve the rights of renters to keep pets.
Fundamentally, I do not see animal welfare as an issue in isolation, but one strand of the fairer and more sustainable economy and society that I want to build and that will benefit us all.