Make your vote count for animal welfare this week
With the General Election later this week, animal-loving readers have an opportunity to put their interests to the forefront by voting for candidates who have expressed concern for animal welfare.
While it can sometimes seem that the system is too big for one voice in millions to make a difference, the truth is that it's only by many individuals using their voices that change happens.
There are many competing issues in the run up to a general election, from jobs to housing to medical care, but there's no reason why animal welfare should not also be included as a priority. This will not happen unless individual voters raise the issue with prospective candidates, some of whom will later be in positions of power.
During the next few days, there will be many conversations on doorsteps, with politicians asking you to give them their "number one" vote. If you care about animals, it's worth asking candidates some key questions about their views on key animal welfare issues. By doing this, you can gauge their attitudes, and let them know that you will be voting accordingly. And by raising the profile of these issues, you will place the topic of animal issues on their radar, which will in turn help to promote animal welfare through the course of the next government.
The Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals has published a "Manifesto for Animals" which includes a list of suggestions that would create significant progress towards their goal of ending cruelty to animals in Ireland. You can read the full ISPCA manifesto online at www.ispca.ie, but the key actions requested are worth repeating in print
1. Conduct an independent audit of current animal welfare issues in Ireland. This audit would allow goals and priorities to be set for future decades.
2. Increase financial support for animal welfare charities who are often left to pick up the pieces when the welfare of animals is compromised. The government already gives €2.5 million to be shared between 140 animal welfare/rescue organisations around the country, but if people want animal welfare to be improved, extra funding is a valuable investment.
3. Promote responsible pet ownership through the school curriculum: education is the key to better animal welfare in Ireland.
4. Ensure tougher sentences for those found guilty of animal cruelty, by introducing sentencing guidelines for judges. The new Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 is a strong piece of legislation but enforcement is inconsistent and sentences issued to date are no deterrent to animal abusers.
5. Conduct a full review of the Dog Breeding Establishments Act 2010, which regulates puppy farming in Ireland, including the introduction of random, unannounced inspections by the Department of Agriculture.
6. Make resources available to ensure consistent enforcement of the Animal Health and Welfare Act (AHWA) and the Dog Breeding Establishments Act (DBEA) to ensure that the legislation has the intended impact on defeating animal cruelty..
7. Stop live farm animal exports to non-EU countries where welfare standards at the final destination cannot be assured.
8. Introduce a complete ban on the use of wild animals in travelling circuses.
9. Introduce a complete ban on the hunting of wild mammals with hounds and coursing of live hares.
10. Phase out fur farming.
The above "shopping list" of actions to improve animal welfare in Ireland is unlikely to be fulfilled by any new government, but if people don't ask for them, they will definitely not happen.
The ISPCA manifesto also includes a simple check list of seven questions to ask prospective candidates:
1. What are your views on animal welfare?
2. Would you support animal welfare being taught in all schools as part of the curriculum?
3. Do you support stronger penalties for those convicted of animal welfare offences?
4. What are your views on blood sports such as fox hunting and live hare coursing?
5. Do you agree that wild animals should be banned from travelling circuses?
6. Do you agree that the live export of food animals to countries outside the EU should be banned?
7. Would you support stronger animal welfare legislation?
It's worth asking these questions, and noting the answers: if your local candidate ends up in the next government, you can then follow up to ensure that they act on their promises.
Last week, I wrote a blog on my own website (www.petethevet.com) analysing the election manifestos of each of the political parties, searching for references to animal welfare. The Green Party, Fine Gael, Labour and Fis Nua (a Green Party offshoot) all specifically mention animal welfare, while it doesn't get a mention in the rest of them (Fine Fail, Social Democrats, Renua, Sinn Fein, People Before Profit and others). That said, individual statements by members of the other parties often express views supportive of animal welfare: my blog includes a link to detailed lists of who has said what in recent times.
Don't forget animals when you vote!