LibDems on Animal Welfare

The Liberal Democrats published this morning their proposals, “Manifesto 2010.” The animal welfare section is part of their “Your Family” section. Here’s the complete text:

Enhanced Protection for Animals

Liberal Democrats believe that ownership and use of animals is a responsibility that should not be abused.

We will: 

Merge existing quangos to establish an Animal Protection Commission to investigate abuses, educate the public and enforce the law; it will also be able to publish reports on its own initiative.

End testing of household products on animals.

Work for the proper enforcement of regulations for the transportation of live animals across all EU member states.

It’s a curious mixture of an interesting and visionary proposal (Animal Protection Commission) with two specific objectives that appear arbitrarily selected, which is packaged under a vague notion of a duty to animals.

The first animal welfare general election campaign in 1977 called for a Standing Royal Commission on Animal Protection to

advise government on the complexities of animal welfare legislation and the mass of supporting Regulations and Orders, and to make recommendations as to where action and new legislation is needed. […] study trends in the exploitation of animals which in the past have been frequently neglected or even undiscovered until a major problem emerges.

The Protecting Animals in Democracy calls for an Animal Protection Commission with the following responsibilities

  • Ongoing examination of the ethical status and rights of animals and how they are affected by policy-making – an ongoing animal welfare audit
  • Facilitation of genuine public participation throughout policy processes which affect animals
  • Development of a cross-government agenda for animal protection

The Vote Cruelty Free campaign calls for the establishment of a National Animal Protection Agency and the

  • Appointment of a Commissioner for Animal Welfare with an overall responsibility for all animal issues
  • Rigorous, enforceable and coordinated UK legislative standards for all animals
  • UK Government to lead calls for a Universal Declaration for the Protection of Animals under the auspices of the UN
  • Adoption of Animal protection charters by Local Authorities

Also, in the United States, a coalition of animal protection organizations is researching the creation of an agency for animals modeled on the Federal Environmental Protection Agency.

The LibDem’s proposal for an Animal Protection Commission is a very important one. Of course, with such things, the devil is always in the detail. It would have to be truly universal in its reach with respect to the moral and legal status of animals in the UK. This will be a complicated task as the Scottish and Welsh Assemblies as well as the EU also have responsibilities on various animal issues. Nonetheless, it is an idea that deserves serious consideration.

The LibDem’s two commitments to end testing of household products on animals and enforcement of regulations for live animal transportation across the EU are to be welcomed as well. But why these issues when there is no mention of, for example, hunting, badger culls and animals performing in circuses?

All of this suggests that not much research went into their manifesto commitment on animal welfare and it is an issue that the LibDems don’t consider very important.