GE2024: Do party manifestos reflect ‘supermajority’ civil society demand for better animal protection?

Polling station sign

Mae'r cynnwys hwn ar gael yn Saesneg yn unig.

WISERD Co-Director, Paul Chaney, has co-authored a new report in a project led by Dr Steven McCulloch (University of Winchester). The report entitled “Political Animals: The Democratic and Electoral Case for Strong Animal Welfare Policies in UK General Elections[i] was commissioned as part of a campaign by 23 leading animal welfare NGOs. To locate this in the academic literature, “Partisan Theory” underlines how political parties may act as vectors, advancing civil society demands – what ordinary people want government to do. Elections are a key part of this process.

This is the second of two blog posts on the general election. Here we consider whether GE2024 party manifestos reflect today’s supermajority support for greater animal protection measures (i.e., around 66%+ of survey respondents).

Our study reveals that those that voted for Plaid Cymru and SNP in GE2019 are most supportive of animal welfare. 73% said that a party with a policy to pass more laws to improve animal welfare and prevent cruelty has the right priorities. Despite this, in 2024, Plaid Cymru makes few animal welfare pledges. They say they will introduce a broader approach to tackling bovine TB (which includes controlling the disease in wildlife) and “avoid situations like wind farms being built on landscapes that provide habitats for endangered species”. For its part, the SNP only say they will “agree a veterinary agreement with the EU to ease [animal] exports and imports”

In comparison, 71% of those that voted for the Labour and LibDems in GE2019 say a party offering more animal welfare policies in 2024 has the right priorities. One of Labour’s headline pledges for this year’s election is to ban trail hunting in Wales and England. As in GE2019, the Party’s manifesto is largely England-centric and not “devolution literate” – animal welfare is a devolved matter. Yet Labour’s General Election manifesto is promising things that have already been done in Wales and Scotland (but fails to tell the reader this) (e.g., we will “end the ineffective badger cull” and make the use of snares unlawful). The LibDem’s 2024 manifesto highlights how post Brexit trade deals undermine animal welfare standards in food Production. The party commits to “Renegotiating the Australia and New Zealand trade agreements”. It also pledges “a comprehensive new Animal Welfare Bill to ensure the highest standards possible”.

Just over two-thirds of those that voted for the Conservative Party (67%) in GE2019 said a party offering more animal welfare policies in 2024 has the right priorities. However, compared to GE2019, this year’s Tory manifesto gives less attention to animal protection. On habitats, it says if re-elected the Tories would ratify the Global Oceans Treaty. It goes on to say, “We remain committed to banning the import of hunting trophies and tackling puppy smuggling and livestock worrying”. This is because these are largely unfulfilled pledges from the Conservatives’ 2019 manifesto – following the government’s abandoning of the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill 2021-22.

In contrast to most of its rivals, the Green Party offers a raft of commitments -including creating a new Commission on Animal Protection, “responsible for overseeing all rules designed to protect animals from cruelty and upholding their rights as sentient beings”. It also asserts that “those convicted of cruelty will be placed on an animal cruelty register and prevented from working with animals again”.

As noted, “Partisan Theory” underlines how political parties may act as vectors, advancing civil society demands – what ordinary people want government to do. Yet our analysis of GE2024 manifestos shows an evident disconnect in this regard. Despite supermajority civil society support for greater animal protection, overall, the parties’ make fewer pledges in this year’s election than they did in 2019. Moreover, accountability theory suggests, if elected, parties should implement the policy pledges promised in their manifestos. The theory also claims that elections are effectively referendums on government policy delivery. The Tories’ perceived reneging on their 2019 animal protection manifesto pledges may well contribute to their predicted defeat.

Civil Society Activism and Animal Welfare Rights - book coverThe ‘Political Animals’ Report comes ahead of a new book based on WISERD’s Civil Society research programme. It is written by Professors Paul Chaney and Sarbeswar Sahoo (Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi). It is entitled “Civil Society Activism and Animal Welfare Rights” (2025, Bristol, Policy Press) and offers a critical, theoretically informed account of civil society mobilisation for animal protection in the UK and India.

[i] Also co-authored by Dr Lisa Riley


Image credit: Alphotographic via iStock.