COUN­TRY­SIDE AL­LIANCE

With the Labour party fail­ing to come up with an ap­peal­ing of­fer for the coun­try­side, Tim Bon­ner en­cour­ages all the par­ties to ditch the an­i­mal rights agenda and truly en­gage with ru­ral vot­ers

Sporting Shooter - - Contents -

Labour’s shadow De­fra team as­pire to gov­ern the coun­try­side. They have told us so on mul­ti­ple oc­ca­sions and with the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal tur­moil they might just get the op­por­tu­nity. How­ever, the party will con­tinue to suf­fer in ru­ral con­stituen­cies if their hos­til­ity to­wards ru­ral Britain re­mains.

This hos­til­ity has been re­vealed again by re­search com­pleted by the Coun­try­side Al­liance. Our work un­cov­ered a wor­ry­ing con­nec­tion be­tween the shadow De­fra team, a ve­gan pres­sure group and a con­victed an­i­mal rights ex­trem­ist – and this dis­cov­ery has had farm­ers, game­keep­ers and ev­ery­one in­volved in the work­ing coun­try­side ask­ing some very search­ing ques­tions.

The con­nec­tion was in the form of an ar­ti­cle pub­lished on LabourList. org un­der the sig­na­ture of the shadow en­vi­ron­ment sec­re­tary, the con­tent of which in­cluded sen­tences di­rectly copied from sev­eral an­i­mal rights groups and in­di­vid­u­als.

The ar­ti­cle was an at­tack on grouse shoot­ing. While 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 – it did point to a very con­cern­ing thought process and di­rec­tion of travel. It picked up on many of the top­ics of con­flict such as flood­ing, burn­ing and rap­tor per­se­cu­tion, while com­pletely ig­nor­ing the eco­nomic worth of grouse shoot­ing to lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties and the whole­sale con­ser­va­tion ben­e­fits.

With this line of at­tack, it was wholely pre­dictable that the copied para­graphs came from or­gan­i­sa­tions such as the League Against Cruel Sports and An­i­mal Aid. Most alarm­ing were the para­graphs copied from an­i­mal rights ex­trem­ist, Luke Steele, a man who has been con­victed and cau­tioned on the is­sue of ha­rass­ment in­volv­ing an­i­mal rights on nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions.

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 and or­gan­i­sa­tions such as the Coun­try­side Al­liance be­gin to sound a bit hol­low. Espe­cially since the Labour party have ad­mit­ted that any route to a fu­ture ma­jor­ity must in­volve im­prov­ing on the party’s poor per­for­mance in ru­ral con­stituen­cies. The Coun­try­side Al­liance be­lieves that the coun­try­side ben­e­fits when ev­ery po­lit­i­cal party is vy­ing for the ru­ral vote. So ear­lier this year we worked with the Fabian So­ci­ety, a Labour think tank, to pro­duce a re­port en­ti­tled Labour Coun­try. This re­port showed that the party 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 the an­i­mal rights agenda that at best is ir­rel­e­vant to ru­ral peo­ple’s lives and at worst tells ru­ral peo­ple that the Labour party is “ac­tively hos­tile to them”.

The re­port’s con­clu­sion was high­lighted when the Leeds north-west MP, Alex So­bel, re­cently aired his views on grouse shoot­ing. With no moor­land man­age­ment or grouse shoot­ing present in his con­stituency, Alex So­bels’ con­stituents de­manded he spent more of his time on mat­ters that im­pact them rather than pan­der­ing to a few ex­trem­ists. It was clear that he would gather more sup­port from in­vest­ing his time into lo­cal ser­vices, espe­cially in the ru­ral parts of

Labour has been praised by cer­tain groups, but has it im­proved their en­vi­ron­men­tal cred­abil­ity or rat­ings with the wider pub­lic?

his con­stituency, rather than blog­ging about top­ics that only re­late to else­where.

Labour’s shadow De­fra sec­re­tary spoke pos­i­tively on the panel at the launch of the Labour Coun­try re­port, yet over the last few months the 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.

A Labour con­sul­ta­tion on an­i­mal wel­fare launched ear­lier this year com­mit­ting to “lead the way on an­i­mal rights,” was com­pletely un­ex­pected and has ground to a halt af­ter be­ing lauded in its launch. The last-minute re­jec­tion of the sci­en­tific ev­i­dence by the Labour en­vi­ron­ment min­is­ter around pheasant shoot­ing on pub­lic land in Wales was stun­ning and, again, has changed lit­tle. And now the shadow De­fra sec­re­tary is quot­ing con­victed an­i­mal rights ex­trem­ists.

The CA has chal­lenged the Labour party 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. We want to see all po­lit­i­cal par­ties de­velop their re­la­tion­ship with the work­ing coun­try­side, and we re­main open to work­ing with any MPs in­ter­ested in de­vel­op­ing sound poli­cies that work for ru­ral Britain.

The Labour party seems to be align­ing them­selves with those that op­pose our way of life

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