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Have Labour still not learned the lesson on animal rights?

Countryside Alliance Chief Executive Tim Bonner writes:

Labour's Shadow Defra team aspire to govern the countryside. This week, Countryside Alliance research revealed that same team had produced an article directly copying work from a vegan pressure group and a convicted animal rights extremist and published it in the name of the Shadow Environment Secretary. Farmers, gamekeepers, and everyone involved in the working countryside will be asking some searching questions.

The article in which the copied passages appeared was an attack on grouse shooting. The article stopped short of calling for a ban, to the frustration of the animal rights advocates who are desperate for the Labour Party to do precisely that, but pointed to a very concerning direction of travel among the shadow Defra team as it included sections directly copied from sources including the League Against Cruel Sports and Animal Aid.

Most alarmingly, the article directly copied passages from Luke Steele's website. Mr Steele's colourful (and criminal) history of animal rights activism is detailed here.

If Labour's Defra team are happy to copy their work from some of the most strident animal rights and vegan activists, any reassurances that have been offered to the working countryside begin to sound a bit hollow. Labour has been keen to reach out to the rural community ever since it became apparent that any route to a future majority has to involve improving on the party's poor performance in rural areas.

The Countryside Alliance thinks that the countryside benefits when every party is vying for the rural vote, so earlier this year we worked with the Fabian Society to produce Labour Country. This report showed that Labour had some way to go in order to win over rural communities, but suggested there were reasons for the Party to be optimistic if only they could focus on delivering solutions to the issues rural people actually care about. The report specifically advised avoiding an animal rights agenda that at best is irrelevant to rural people's lives and at worse tells rural people that the Labour Party is "actively hostile to them".

Labour's Shadow Defra Secretary spoke on the panel at which that report was launched, yet over the last few months the Labour Party has shown no sign of learning those lessons. Indeed, every step towards the fringes of the animal rights movement has been more extraordinary than the last. The consultation committing to "lead the way on animal rights" was unprecedented, the last-minute rejection of the scientific evidence around pheasant shooting in Wales was stunning, and now the Shadow Efra Secretary is quoting convicted animal rights extremists.

The Alliance have challenged Labour on each of these missteps, and we will continue to do so. Not out of any sense of ill-will, but because we actually want the Labour Party to make an appealing offer to the countryside. The Alliance wants to see all political parties develop their relationship with the working countryside, and will remain open to working with any MPs interested in developing scientifically-sound policies that work for rural Britain.

Tim Bonner
Chief Executive
Follow me at @CA_TimB

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