Recently Conservative Party leadership contender Liz Truss tweeted, “We need to prove to people who voted for us in 2019 that we can deliver what we promised in our Conservative Manifesto.” This is welcome. In fact, both Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak have repeatedly declared they will honour the 2019 Manifesto.
A strong portion of this Manifesto unapologetically positioned the Conservatives as the Party to improve the health of our planet and the welfare of our animals. This approach paid off when almost 14 million people took to the ballot box in December 2019 and gave the Party its highest percentage of the popular vote since 1979. The UK is a nation of animal lovers and by recognising this sentiment, the 2019 Manifesto undoubtedly contributed to the Conservatives electoral success.
With this in mind, it should follow that Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak are eager to pledge their support for the Government’s animal welfare agenda. But the reality is animal welfare has received little attention throughout the leadership race thus far. Of course, nobody would deny that pressing issues like the ever-growing cost of living crisis should be front and centre of hustings, but it is nonetheless surprising that such an important issue to the electorate -and one which was very clearly set out in the 2019 Manifesto- has not been widely addressed.
We know that animal welfare ranks highly on the public’s priorities. A recent poll showed that 87% of people want the Government to maintain or increase its level of action on animal protection. And it’s not just the wider public who care about advancing animal welfare. Conservative opinion polls from this year, for instance, show overwhelming support for the Government’s policy of banning trophy hunting imports. 92% of those polled believe the Government should enact a ban as soon as possible. Having campaigned on the doorstep, I can tell you first hand that these issues are important to voters both in and outside of the Party.
I was encouraged by Rishi Sunak’s response to a joint letter by a number of animal welfare organisations, including CAWF, where he committed to supporting the Kept Animals Bill as well as ending hunting trophy imports. This was a welcome development. We look forward to hearing from Liz Truss on the manifesto commitments on animal welfare and invite her to confirm that under her leadership these important measures will go ahead.
Advancing animal welfare has been a major achievement of the last couple of years, and rightly so. But there is still more to be accomplished. Our next Prime Minister has a great opportunity to continue this legacy and deliver on popular, ambitious policies to cement the UK’s place as a world leader in animal welfare. I hope that Liz Truss will join her opponent in confirming her support for the same Manifesto pledges which put the Conservatives in Government.
Let’s open up the debate to the important action for animals pledged in 2019 and ensure that our next Prime Minister continues this important agenda; one which will improve the lives of many animals up and down the country.
Blog by Lorraine Platt, Co-Founder of the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation