Feb 17

Labour Leadership Elections 2020: statements on animal welfare from candidates

It has become a tradition for LAWS to approach candidates in Labour’s Leader and Deputy Leader elections, asking them to provide a statement giving their views on animal welfare issues.

Their views are important because animal welfare is important, but also because a significant number of electors (and Labour members) believe these issues are important as well. Indeed a large number of voters seek out political parties’ manifesto commitments with regard to animal welfare before deciding who to vote for.

Candidates’ statements are featured below.

We’d love to hear your feedback what the candidates have had to say, so feel free to let us know at labouranimalwelfaresociety@gmail.com .

Candidates for Leader

Rebecca Long Bailey

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.

Lisa Nandy

No statement has been supplied by Lisa Nandy.

Keir Starmer

Labour’s socialist societies are a hugely important part of the Labour Party family and the Labour Animal Welfare Society play a crucial role in campaigning on the rights of animals and promoting animal welfare within our party. We are the Party of the hunting ban and the Animal Welfare Act and that wouldn’t be the case without you.

I was proud to support Labour’s animal welfare manifesto, particularly the commitment to introduce a powerful animal welfare commissioner looking after the interests of animals at the heart of Government.

I also support enshrining the principle of animal sentience into UK law, and my team pushed hard on this important issue during the passage of Brexit legislation. The fact that the Tories used their MPs in Parliament to reject the amendment to recognise animal sentience shows where their priorities really lie. The Tories have overseen the inhumane badger cull and turned a blind eye to those circumventing the Hunting Act. That’s why I am particularly concerned that the protection of animal welfare will be ignored in this government’s pursuit of trade deals.

I would be delighted to have the support of the Labour Animal Welfare Society, and if elected leader I would look forward to working closely with you, drawing on the expertise and experience of the Labour Animal Welfare Society to keep developing this vital agenda.

Candidates for Deputy Leader

Dr Rosena Allin-Khan

Growing up on the breadline, as a mixed race child, with a single mum, under Margaret Thatcher’s Government of the 80s, meant that the odds were stacked against my brother and I.

Constantly told that there was a ceiling on what I could achieve, when I failed my exams, mydreams of serving my community looked to be over.

A Labour Government transformed my life and enabled me to go to medical school andbecome an A&E doctor, where I still do frontline shifts. I am determined that no person should have a limit placed on them by this Conservative Government. As an MP, I’ve taken my passion for Labour values across the world in humanitarian crises, working with the most vulnerable.

Only when we give a voice to the voiceless, can we create a more equal society.

I am extremely proud of Labour’s record on animal welfare. We have always ensured that the welfare of animals remains high on a packed policy agenda. I am proud of not only our legislative achievements, but also that we stand united as a party against the Conservatives’ cruel hunting agenda, helping create a cultural shift against these archaic practices in our society.

I became a doctor as my drive to help people, at home and across conflict zones around the world, has been with me since childhood. However my compassion does not end with people. I agree with LAWS that our animal welfare manifesto put together at the last election is the most radical set of animal welfare policies ever produced and I am fully committed to it. As Deputy Leader, I would make animal welfare an absolute priority of mine and I would work with my colleagues in the STEM community and in full collaboration with LAWS and other animal welfare groups to build on the vision we have set out. 

The Conservatives may be in power, however we must continue to stand united as a party to ensure that their underlying agenda of cruel animal practices does not resurface in Parliament and in our society.

We face a huge challenge ahead and we need to prove to the country that we can deliver on our promises.

As Deputy, I will lead from the grassroots, working hard across the UK. I will listen to members and together evaluate why we lost the last four general elections, then move forwards, starting by winning the elections in May.

I would give our emergency service workers a voice on shaping their future by offering them areduced rate to join our party- we will fight to save our NHS from the Tory sell-off.

My aim is clear: to take Labour forward together and win the next General Election

– join me.

Richard Burgon

I am proud to have served in Labour’s Shadow Cabinet that has delivered the groundbreaking Animal Welfare Manifesto ahead of the last election.
This builds on Labour’s proud tradition of being the party of animal welfare.

I have been a long standing opponent of fox hunting and other blood sports. The killing of animals for sport is senseless and I am proud that as a party we brought in the Hunting Act of 2004. 

Labour Animal Welfare Society has done great work for many years and will require the support of the wider Labour Party over the coming years under the Conservative Government. As a campaigning Deputy Leader I want to work with you and other groups to highlight to the wider public that it is only a Labour government that will ensure animal welfare is protected. 

The Labour Party must do all it can to block the Conservative Government in their attempts to drag the country backwards in terms of blood sports legislation and in using the cover of Brexit to dilute existing legislation. 
I have deep concerns over the welfare of farm animals and stopped eating meat in 2015 and try to make as much of my food intake as possible vegan. I spoke on BBC Any Questions last year about doing ‘Veganuary’ and for people to limit their consumption of meat.

Dawn Butler

As part of a caring society we as the Labour Party must ensure that we take animal welfare extremely seriously. It is the number one issue that I am contacted about and rightly so, which is why it must continue to form a vital part of Labour’s progressive policy platform.

As the proud owner of a 20 year old cat, named Salsa, animal welfare is an issue close to my heart. I strongly support the ban on fox hunting and have joined the likes of Brian May on many campaigns to keep it in place and will continue to fight any attempt by the Tories to scrap it!

I proudly stood in 2019 on the most progressive and comprehensive set of animal welfare policies ever developed by the party. No animal should suffer needlessly, and I fully supported Labour’s Animal Welfare Manifesto.

The Labour Party demonstrated these principles in government with pioneering legislation such as the Hunting Act and the Animal Welfare Act. Whilst however Parliament has legislated, I believe that we have fallen short when it comes to enforcement which is why we were right to commit to strengthening animal welfare laws in the UK.

Often police forces do not always have the expertise to pursue breaches in animal welfare legislation, or the resources to do so, which is why I support LAWS commitment for Police Forces to have specialist animal welfare knowledge and officers.

It is also a concern that no specific body has any statutory duty to enforce the Animal Welfare Act which makes it an offence to cause unnecessary physical or mental harm to an animal. I fully support our commitment to appoint an Animal Welfare Commissioner to ensure animal welfare standards are always considered as part of all legislation.

We cannot however do any of these things without a Labour government.

That is why I will be a campaigning Deputy Leader ensuring we prepare our party for power. I will ensure we have paid organisers working at the heart of communities, including rural areas and towns, from the South-West to Scotland. I am determined that this be the last time we lose and will ensure all members have access to the training and resources they need to lead the fightback.

I believe the Leader and Deputy must work together to deliver a Labour government. I have served under two Labour Prime Ministers and proudly served in Jeremy Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet. I never have, and never will be part of a coup because divided parties do not win elections.

I understand the pressures of being in government as the first elected black woman in the UK to be a Minister. That inclusivity and experience is vital in Labour’s top team.

As Deputy Leader, I will ensure we have the right strategy, vision and a plan to prepare for power. I have the experience to lead the party to electoral victory so that we may enact the most progressive agenda for animal welfare ever seen.

Ian Murray

The Labour Animal Welfare Society has undertaken fantastic work in promoting animal rights since its inception almost thirty years ago, so it is my pleasure to be able to outline my views on these important issues.

Labour Party members can be proud of the record of the last Labour government on improving animal welfare in the United Kingdom. Hunting with dogs was banned both by the UK Labour government in England and Wales, and the Scottish Labour-led executive in Holyrood, outlawing the practice across Britain.

Far too often in recent years, Labour politicians have dismissed the achievements of the 1997-2010 government. On animal welfare, as on so many other issues, we should stand up for the great things that government achieved.

But while we shouldn’t ignore our past victories, we must also look to the future, offering a prospectus to the country that shows we have listened, and we are willing to be a credible alternative government.

As many of your members will likely already know, EU law recognises animals as sentient beings. I strongly support recognising the same principle in domestic law. Indeed, I was sorry that a petition, signed by over 100,000 people, was unable to be debated in the House of Commons in September, because of Boris Johnson’s illegal prorogation of parliament.

Animal welfare is a devolved issue in Scotland and I have long called on the Scottish government to update the Scottish codes of practice on farm animals.

I believe we must seek to end this ‘cage age’ of outdated farming practices that cause animals distress and restrict natural behaviours. I am committed to promoting best practice in cruelty-free animal husbandry, and support ending the use of cages on British farms by 2025.

I have also spent time in my own area with the SSPCA, the Scottish equivalent of the RSPCA in England and Wales. It was eye opening to follow their team around on animal rescues, seeing the harrowing conditions some animals are forced to live in.

We must continue to support the fantastic work of both the RSPCA and SSPCA, as well as other animal welfare organisations.

However, the sad reality of our current predicament is an 80 seat Tory majority. Our animal welfare manifesto at the last election had great policies within it, but none of those will be delivered.

In order to deliver a government that improves animal welfare in this country, we have to win a general election.

That is why I am running to be Deputy Leader. I was devastated at 10pm on election night. Devastated for our party, but even more so for the people and animals that need a Labour government.

I am not a continuity candidate in this election. I am the change candidate. I believe that we have to listen to what the public told us last month, and change to win.


Please do not hesitate to come back to me should you require any further information.

Best wishes,

Ian Murray MP

Angela Rayner

I was pleased to stand for election recently on the Labour Party’s most comprehensive and progressive animal welfare manifesto in our history. Animal welfare issues have been very much at the forefront of my campaigning activity since first being elected an MP in 2015.

I have actively campaigned against the government’s Badger Cull. I have marched against the cull and supported organisations such as the Badger Trust who advocate protection of this endangered species. I have argued for vaccination and improved farming methods as a better method of TB control, and faced down attacks from Farmers Weekly and others for taking that position. 

I am pleased Labour is committed to strengthening and properly enforcing the Hunting Act. There are still too many hunts getting away with hunting foxes with dogs and avoiding prosecution. I want to see tougher legislation introduced to tackle hunting of deer and mink, and hare coursing. I have regularly clashed with the BASC over hunting and countryside sports concerning wild animals. Similarly, I was proud of our policy to end the importing of fur and want to ensure that commitment is kept. 

Recently I have been highlighting the systematic illegal killing of hen harriers because of managed grouse moors, whose owners see this beautiful bird of prey as a menace to grouse. I would like to see an eventual ban on grouse shooting and rewilding of these heavily managed moors.

The international pastime of rich hunters who partake in trophy hunting is cruel, archaic, immoral and unjustifiable. I have called for a ban on this cruel pursuit and attended parliamentary briefings on the campaign. I was very disappointed that the government consultation on banning trophy hunting has been temporarily halted, we must keep up the pressure on the government to act.

I regularly highlight the persecution of animals worldwide, such as elephants and big cats being hunted, polar bears being killed and turtles being slaughtered. I have criticised whaling operations in Japan that are claimed to be for “scientific research”. One post on the terrible killing of a Minke Whale being killed reached 11,453,575 accounts online and I will keep using my platform to expose this. 

International animal welfare is not always about the hunting, and I have also spoken out about natural disasters like the recent Australian wildfires that have devastated the animal population and the habitat animals need to survive. 

As you can see, animal welfare issues are extremely close to my heart. If I were elected deputy leader I would ensure that our party continued to stand up to vested interests on animal welfare and I would work with organisations like LAWS to do so.