In July 2007, David Cameron asked me to become the Shadow Home Affairs Minister, with special responsibility for Animal Welfare, the first role of its kind on the Conservative front bench.
Over the past two years, I have learnt an immense amount about the invaluable work undertaken by the various animal welfare organisations, both on a national and international level.
Although not traditionally associated with the Home Affairs brief, this area of policy has branched out significantly in recent years, culminating in the cross-departmental approach that we now have in place. This is symbolic in reflecting how animal welfare continues to develop greater political prominence in British politics today. We are a nation of animal lovers and it is right that the Conservative Party takes the agenda forward on this issue.
As a Shadow Minister, a key task for me during the past year has been policy-formation. Digesting and, in most cases, respecting the views and attitudes of a multitude of individuals and organisations is perhaps the most difficult, yet most rewarding, aspect of the policy-making process.
Animal welfare has proved particularly challenging in this respect, primarily due to the natural human tendency to react and argue purely on emotion. The need to balance our ever-increasing cultural compassion for the way in which animals are regarded and treated, with a realistic and feasible approach to implementing legislation that sometimes clashes with other agendas, should never be underestimated.