The British General Election and Animal Welfare

Without explaining the eccentricities of our political system and how and when general elections are called, we are, as each day passes into the next, slowly but surely, sinking into the national bun fight that’s called here a General Election. Look for Prime Minister Gordon Brown to announce it on Tuesday, April 6 and for it to take place on Thursday, May 6. This will be my first British general election in about 25 years. I’m looking forward to it. Of course, I want to see Labour re-elected, warts ‘n all. Indeed, I will volunteer as much time as I can. My constituency, Hastings and Rye, is very fortunate to have a Labour MP, Michael Foster, who is much admired as an untarnished, hard-working representative by many people regardless of their political affiliation. He deserves to be re-elected because he has worked very hard for this constituency.

Anyway, general elections are a lot of fun. Emotions run deep and high. There’s also a lot of silliness, unintended and otherwise. One such example is this piece of rubbish by Simon Jenkins published (where else!) but in The Guardian

Should animals get the vote? If they are said to have rights, surely they should have representation; and if representation, then the vote. In Switzerland, they have lawyers and fight cases. Their lobbyists cite chapter, verse and precedent for their moral status. We are thinking of widening the franchise to under-18s and prisoners. How long before we embrace animals? Country Life magazine this week goes a step further. If animals did vote, it asks, which party would they support? Using random sampling (a “fox pop”) and presumably assessing closeness to a polling station, the magazine lists voting intention by species, based on predictable responses to recent laws.

The trouble with drivel like this is that it puts back the cause to advance animal rights as a serious political issue. No one in their right mind suggests animals should have the vote. And asking Country Life magazine to say anything serious about the moral and legal status of animals is absurd. Its pages are full of articles, reports and recommendations every imaginable and inconceivable way to raise, kill and otherwise use animals.