Vegetarian Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn sets out radical animal welfare agenda

| 14th February 2018
Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn signs a copy of the Labour party manifesto for a raffle prize winner at an event in London on Saturday. 

The Ecologist
Jeremy Corbyn has been a vegetarian for 20 years. And now he may just become prime minister. He has chosen Valentine's Day to launch its animal welfare programme and court the environmental community. But can this be love at first sight? BRENDAN MONTAGUE reports

The UK must lead from the front on the environment, and that means all parties having ambitious plans for a more sustainable future.

Jeremy Corbyn - who could become Britain's first vegetarian prime minister - will launch a "radical" animal welfare policy programme on Valentine's Day as the Labour party does everything it can to court the environmental voter.

The announcement comes days after the Labour leader promised to take the energy industry into democratic public control in order to reduce carbon emissions to fight climate change, and reduce bills for businesses and families.

READ: Vote Red, go green? Jeremy Corbyn calls for nationalisation of energy industry to stop climate change

Now he has promised to "look at" introducing a ban on the live export of animals for slaughter, which has been a campaign aim for animal welfare advocates for a generation.

Animal welfare

The Labour party has also committed itself to a wide range of animal welfare measures in a 50-point draft policy document called Animal Welfare For The Many, Not The Few

The failure of Theresa May and the Conservative party to win a convincing victory at the last general election was in part blamed on the prime minister's promise to revisit the hunting ban, which was hugely unpopular with younger voters. Since then, Michael Gove as environment secretary has attempted to revive the Vote Blue, Go Green agenda. 

Sue Hayman MP, Labour’s shadow environment secretary, said: “Labour is the party of animal welfare. From bringing in the ban on fox hunting to tightening the rules on the transport of live animals, Labour has always been consistent in our leadership on matters of animal welfare.

“Today we’re making proposals for real, long-term progress. Our vision is one where no animal is made to suffer unnecessary pain and we continue to drive up standards and practice in line with the most recent advances and understanding.

“With new trade deals on the horizon and the UK no longer subject to EU-wide rules on animal welfare, we want to ensure there is a comprehensive legislative agenda in place so that the UK becomes a world leader on animal rights.”

Flouting the law

Labour has promised to "consult landlords on giving tenants the right to keep a pet, strengthen the Hunting Act, enshrine the principal of animal sentience in law, end the badger cull, implement a review of animal testing and expand affordable vet care for people on low incomes".

Corbyn's front bench will also consult the public on the appointment of a animal welfare commissioner "to ensure government policy across Whitehall is continually informed by the latest scientific evidence on animal sentience".

Eduardo Gonçalves, chief executive at the League Against Cruel Sports, said: “We warmly welcome Labour’s commitment to strengthening the Hunting Act 2004, and look forward to contributing to the consultation process.

The UK must lead from the front on the environment, and that means all parties having ambitious plans for a more sustainable future.

"It’s clear that hunts are routinely flouting the law and continuing to kill wildlife across Britain, whether that be through so-called ‘trail hunting’ or by exploiting legal loopholes. This must stop."

Emma Slawinski, director of campaigns at Compassion in World Farming, said: “We are thrilled by this announcement from the Labour party, which would revolutionise conditions for British farm animals.

Greater transparency

"We particularly welcome Labour's commitments to end the cage age, stop live exports, empower consumers with mandatory meat labelling, stop routine preventative use of antibiotics and use post-Brexit subsidies to move away from intensive factory farming and bad environmental practices. This could be the beginning of the end of cruel factory farming.”

Ben Stafford, head of campaigns at WWF, said: "If we want our children and grandchildren to live in a world where elephants still roam and the oceans have more fish than plastic, we need a political race to the top on the environment.

"So it’s great to see Labour committing today to tackling the illegal wildlife trade and to strong protection for our seas. The UK must lead from the front on the environment, and that means all parties having ambitious plans for a more sustainable future."

Michelle Thew, the chief executive of Cruelty Free International, said: “We wholeheartedly welcome the proposals in the animal welfare strategy announced today by Labour.

"In particular we are delighted to see a commitment to ending avoidable tests and experiments that cause severe suffering to animals, as well as the push for greater transparency. These are developments for which we have campaigned tirelessly for years.

Animal testing

"It shows tremendous progress that one of the major political parties is now committed to a positive plan for ending the suffering of animals in laboratories.

He added: "The public will be overjoyed that their call for an end to cruel and unnecessary animal testing is being taken seriously. We believe this is the very start of a journey that will finally put a stop to needless animal experiments in the UK.”

Claire Bass, executive director of Humane Society International, said: “The Labour party is showing some serious love for animals this Valentine’s Day, their 50-point animal welfare plan shows vision and ambition for a more compassionate Britain. Adopting a fur import ban will float voters’ boats across the political spectrum, 78 percent of Labour voters back a ban, while 64 percent of Conservative voters are also in favour.”

The proposals, as set out in the Labour party press release, include:


Enshrining the principle of animal sentience in law, ensuring it covers all policy areas to prevent practices that expose animals to cruel and degrading treatment


Strengthening the Hunting Act to close loopholes that allow illegal hunting


Consult landlords on giving tenants the default right to keep pets unless there is evidence the animal is causing a nuisance


Mandatory labelling of domestic and imported meat, including country of origin, method of production and slaughter (stun or non-stun)


Establishing an independent zoo inspectorate to draw up revised standards of animal welfare


Total ban on imports of Foie Gras


Ending the badger cull


Requiring motorists to report accidents where an animal has been injured


Banning live exports of animals for slaughter or fattening and introducing mandatory CCTV in all slaughterhouses


Designing post-Brexit farm subsidies to move away from intensive factory farming and bad environmental practices


Prohibiting the third party sale of puppies and tackling puppy smuggling by reintroducing rabies testing before entry into the UK


Working with organisations like the PDSA to expand accessibility to affordable vet care for pet owners on low incomes


A comprehensive review of animal testing with a view to improving practice, limiting animal suffering and increasing transparency


Introducing a ‘blue belt’ to protect and enhance the marine environment around the UK and our overseas territories

This Author

Brendan Montague is editor of The Ecologist, founder of Request Initiative and co-author of Impact of Market Forces on Addictive Substances and Behaviours: The web of influence of addictive industries (Oxford University Press). He tweets at @EcoMontague. 

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