Countryside Alliance Chief Executive Tim Bonner writes:

This week has seen the Government mired in a row on the least likely subject. It has faced allegations that it rejected the concept of ‘animal sentience’. In some ways it was a classic political ambush: move an amendment which the Government rejects because it is unnecessary, then claim that shows the Government does not care about the subject in question.

The difference here is that the allegation that the Conservative party rejected the concept of animal sentience was picked up and blasted around social media using the same methods that have been used to attack hunting and other wildlife management activities over the years. The lie, repeated hundreds of thousands of times, becomes true and gains support, including celebrity endorsement, from many who have little or no understanding of the original issue. Thus, the lie spreads ever faster. Our Head of Shooting, Liam Stokes, wrote a very prescient Spectator blog about this phenomenon over a year ago.

Apart from the obvious political fallout there is, however, an additional element to this attack on the Conservative party by the animal rights movement which bears consideration. There is a small element in the party which has embraced the more extreme parts of the animal rights movement usually with some trite line about ‘modernisation’. Selfies with Brian May, voting against badger culling, signing up to the latest item on the animal rights agenda are, apparently, the road to electoral nirvana. Well this week those Conservative MPs found out exactly who their friends, or more importantly their enemies, are as the animal rights movement laid into them and the Conservative party on the most spurious of grounds.

The reaction from the Government has also been interesting. Defra Secretary, Michael Gove, who has committed to delivering many of the current demands of animal rights groups has been on the defensive. He has attacked the ‘distortion’ of the Government’s position on social media, but also signalled that he may bow to exactly the pressure it exerted by bringing forward changes in the law. Whether that is necessary or not is a matter of opinion, and not really the point. I just hope that the Secretary of State does not think that this, or anything else his Government can do, will ever satisfy the small, unrepresentative, but noisy animal rights movement.

Tim Bonner
Chief Executive
Follow Tim @CA_TimB