‘Democratisation’ is key to protecting animals, says groundbreaking think tank report

Posted by ap507 at Feb 17, 2016 11:19 AM |
University of Leicester academic co-authors new study

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 17 February 2016

A groundbreaking new report from the Centre for Animals and Social Justice, and involving research from the University of Leicester,  recommends fundamental changes to the way the government makes animal welfare policy.

The main conclusion is that introducing greater democracy into decisions affecting animals is essential to achieve effective animal protection that commands public confidence. 

Titled ‘How to Protect Animal Welfare’, the report reveals that claims made by government and animal use industries that the ‘UK has the highest animal welfare standards in the world’ lack supporting evidence. Instead, such statements are a tactic to provide false public reassurance, thereby distracting attention from the weak enforcement of animal welfare regulations.

In reality, analysis of policies on animal experiments, animal farming and even the conditions of birds produced for the shooting industry shows that, regardless of which party has been in power, welfare considerations and related public concern have been largely neglected by Whitehall units dominated by narrow economic thinking and business interests. Meanwhile, the popular will for stringent animal welfare standards is denied effective representation within government.

The report includes a summary of a research project carried out for the Centre by Professor Rob Garner of the University of Leicester.

Professor Garner, who is Professor of Politics in the Department of Politics and International Relations at Leicester,  concludes that the animal protection movement needs to take unified action to address the systemic flaws in government which render it indifferent to animal welfare.

Suggested reforms span from proportional representation for general elections through to a much greater role for public deliberation when Whitehall departments formulate policies affecting animals. Without such reforms, lobbying campaigns aimed at addressing animal welfare problems in isolation will continue to fall on deaf ears in government.  

Professor Garner said: “Academics and activists concerned with humanity’s impact on other animals have tended to focus on advancing moral arguments for protecting animal welfare, but this has failed to achieve significant real-world impacts to animals’ benefit. This research project is unique in that it addresses the practical obstacles to animal welfare posed by political structures and the exercise of political power. The broad conclusion is that the more democratic the political system, the more conducive the environment is for the realisation of animal protection values.”

The Centre’s research reveals that a fundamental weakness in the UK’s approach to animal welfare is the lack of any government body with a dedicated animal welfare remit. The report therefore recommends the establishment of a governmental Animal Protection Commission (APC) to finally provide an influential voice for animal welfare within the British state. Public participation would be at the heart of proposed APC operations, supported by scientific expertise.    

Praise for ‘How to Protect Animal Welfare’:

“As Co-Chair of the All-Party Animal Welfare Group in Parliament I thank the Centre for Animals & Social Justice for their work in highlighting and promoting the need for democratic public engagement in animal welfare protection. CASJ’s contribution to this important debate is helping further participation and research.”

Henry Smith MP (Conservative, Crawley)

“As one of those ethicists seeking to make ethical arguments in order to try to change public attitudes, I’m convinced that what I and others are doing in this sphere is likely to be insufficient without the kind of scrutiny of the current levers of power and the need to cooperate in ways of changing them that the CASJ recommends.”

David Clough, Professor of Theological Ethics, University of Chester

"This is a groundbreaking, timely and rigorous report. It's of crucial importance not just for animals and their welfare, but also for the state of our democracy.  If Britain truly is a nation of animal lovers, then let's hear from them!"

Dr Alasdair Cochrane, Senior Lecturer in Political Theory, University of Sheffield

Notes to Editors

  • For further information and interviews contact Dan Lyons: dan.lyons@casj.org.uk
  • The report is entitled ‘How to Protect Animal Welfare: deliberation, democracy and representation’ and can be downloaded in full from here. The authors are Rob Garner, Dan Lyons and Angela Roberts.
  • Rob Garner is Professor of Politics at the University of Leicester, specialising in animal protectionism and the political representation of non-human interests. Dan Lyons PhD is research director of the Centre for Animals and Social Justice (CASJ), an honorary research fellow at the University of Sheffield and a national trustee of the RSPCA. Angela Roberts is one of the most experienced animal advocates in the UK, co-founding animal protection group Uncaged in 1993 and the CASJ in 2011, where she is Managing Director.
  • The first peer-reviewed article based on Prof Garner’s CASJ-funded project has now been accepted for forthcoming publication in the European Journal of Political Theory. Additional articles are currently being peer-reviewed for other journals.
  • Sixteen of the UK’s largest animal welfare groups support the CASJ proposal for a governmental Animal Protection Commission. They are listed here.


Share this page: