Animal advocates often moan about politicians because they don’t care about animals. They also complain about how existing legislation for animals is often biased in favour of those abusing animals. I share these frustrations. I also believe there’s a way forward for the animal rights movement to ensure our elected representatives and governments do care about animals and act effectively on their behalf. I advocate a strategy to put animals into politics. By this, I mean to work within mainstream politics to establish animal rights as a legitimate political issue. This is not an impossible goal. Within my lifetime, such issues as the prohibition of smoking in public places, the wearing of seat belts, the right to same-sex marriage, and many other issues have successfully made the transition from political obscurity to political acceptance.
I have been writing and speaking about putting animals into politics since the 1970s and 1980s when I participated in the first campaigns of this kind in the UK. They laid the foundation for the political progress that has been made to date. These gains, while having mixed effectiveness, lay the foundation to further legislation for animals. But this can only be achieved if the animal rights movement prioritises political action. Presently, the movement is primarily focussed on optional lifestyle choice campaigns (“Go vegan!”). While they’re essential and important, we cannot rely only upon consumerism and market forces to achieve legislative change.
Recently, I spoke at the World Conference on Mainstreaming Animal Protection organised by the Center For Animal Defence in Denmark. The conference brought together 100 plus invited experts from different fields (academics, scientists, lawyers, decision-makers, etc.) who are dedicated to improving the situation for animals. I’m truly grateful to the conference organisers, Sacha Lucassen and Sidse Kærsgaard, for giving me the opportunity to make my presentation “Putting Animals into Politics.” A video of my talk is now available to watch.