Comedians and coughing - our round-up of Conference Season

The Labour and Conservative party conferences made the headlines for standing ovations and sore throats, but also for a dramatic announcement on sentencing for animal cruelty. As usual, the League attended the conferences and spoke to many MPs from both parties about our key issues. Here's a quick round up of what happened.

Labour conference

Closeup of a dog with grass in the background

This year’s Labour conference started with the Labour Animal Rights Group fringe event. The League spoke on a panel focusing on ‘Why the animal protection vote matters’, alongside Shadow Environment Secretary Sue Hayman MP, Mark Jones (Born Free), Dominic Dyer (Badger Trust), animal welfare campaigner Anneka Svenska, Shadow Transport Secretary Rachael Maskell MP, and Mark Avery (whose thoughts on the event you can find here). As one would expect, the topics covered ranged quite widely, but two came up frequently: firstly, the badger cull, and secondly, driven grouse shooting. Also speaking at the event was League Trustee Chris Williamson MP, who gave a rousing speech highlighting the importance of animal rights activism.

Given recent events, it is understandable that the badger cull is foremost in people’s minds. With the Government apparently unwilling to listen to the scientific evidence demonstrating that the cull is ineffective and inhumane, the League is asking supporters to consider giving time or more to the Wounded Badger Patrols in operation.

There was some frustration expressed about Labour’s failure to support a ban on driven grouse shooting. However, it is heartening to hear Labour MPs acknowledge the significant problems – both animal welfare and environmental - it causes, and we will continue to pressure MPs of all parties over this.

Our own contribution to the panel focused on hunting, including how and why it became such a significant issue during the election. According to an analysis by Buzzfeed, hunting was the sixth most discussed issue online during the election, ahead of Brexit and just behind security and terrorism. Several commentators have suggested it may have cost the Conservatives a majority in the Commons. While our opponents like to deride the idea of an ‘animal welfare vote’ it is clear that this is an issue that can vote the dial when it comes to elections.

Looking forward, we also raised the National Trust campaign, and asked those in attendance who are National Trust members to vote to end trail hunting on NT land.

Conservative Party conference

Huey: dog victim of dog fighting

This year’s Conservative Party conference got off to a great start when Environment Secretary Michael Gove announced plans to increase the maximum sentence for animal cruelty offences to five years. The League, along with other organisations, have been calling an increase from the current maximum of six months, so we were delighted by this news.

We were also pleased to hear Mr Gove single out dog fighting as part of the reason for the increase. A consultation on the legislation is due out early next year and we look forward to contributing to that.

On the second night, we held our annual reception at Conservative conference – a chance to engage with Conservative MPs and grassroots alike. This year, we focused on our ongoing investigations into dog fighting at home and abroad, highlighting the need for an increase in animal cruelty sentencing alongside a register of convicted animal abusers. Speaking alongside the League’s Philippa King was former Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers MP, who spoke strongly against animal abuse, and welcomed the Government’s announcement on maximum sentences.

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