Roger Baker profiles the Conservative Animal Welfare Group
In a new series on ConservativeHome, we will be profiling groups within the Conservative Party that focus on specific issues or the involvement of particular sections of society. This occasional series kicks off with a contribution from Roger Baker of the Conservative Animal Welfare Group. If you would like your group to be profiled please email Tim.
Roger has spent his working life as a Veterinary Surgeon in Whitstable after education at Kent College, Canterbury and the Royal Veterinary College. He is joint Chairman of the CAWG.
Political angels often fear to tread along the pathway of animal welfare. However it is a political issue that has a significant bearing on the voting intentions of well over one million voters in the UK (according to the last poll that surveyed the issue (in 1997)). The issues in conflict are usually the defining of “animal welfare” and “animal rights” but there is a very great distinction, they are not attitudes or stances that should be confused.
The Conservative Animal Welfare Group has a history reaching back over a decade of putting a political slant onto animal welfare but equally making a clear distinction between animal welfare and animal rights. The parallels between how a society relates with other species and how it relates to its individual members has been acknowledged by philosophers for over two thousand years. We can see in various societies around the world these parallels and how these parallels are dictated by culture and religions as well as the societies themselves.
In the UK we have a society of diverse cultures but politically we need to build a society built on a framework of respect for others, acknowledgement of the views of others and above all we need to build a society which cares for others. A significant strand of this has to be that within our society we also have respect and appreciation of other species.
This does not bestow on animals any rights but it does demand from us responsibilities. These responsibilities are to treat other species with respect, to prevent suffering and to recognise that animals are sentient.
The Conservative Party has historically held the moral high ground with the initial Protection of Animals Act 1911 being brought to the statute book by the Liberal Prime Minister Herbert Asquith it has essentially been the Conservative Administrations from Law (1922-1923) to Major (1990-1997) that have overseen the evolution of animal welfare legislation designed to reflect a developing morality in the way we treat other species.
The reality of good animal welfare is to approach our relationships based on respect and good ethical conduct. The modern Conservative Party has to enshrine these values in all that it does from schooling, relationships in the workplace and the care of the elderly. Our relationships with other animals/species should not fall outside this remit but be an extension of it.
The next Conservative Government should consider farming practices, animals at slaughter, animals in the wild, animals in sport and the media, animal transportation and animals in our society as a humanity. By developing sound, science based animal welfare policies the Conservative Party will gather moral strength itself and will build a better society which will benefit everyone in it.
We should look at our own society and improve our stance. We can then influence others in the EU and further afield to be one with us in elevating our standards of conduct.
There are many simple things that can be done. For example a move towards more local slaughter houses, improved conditions for the breeding and selling of cats and dogs to the public, and a greater awareness of the needs of wild animals. It is obscene that the EU should subsidise the live exportation of cattle to the Middle East, it is flawed that the new Animal Welfare Bill does not provide funding for the training of Inspectors to implement the new welfare legislation.
Other aspects of animal welfare are less simple. In parts of this country and around the world many people view animals with low regard. This is inherently wrong and we should say so. Respect for each other in the widest possible definition is a mark of civilisation. Let the Conservative Party embrace that higher level of that civilisation.