Lo, the official Green Party manifesto was released, and the animals they did rejoice. Or did they? The British Association for Shooting and Conservation, for one, have already come out and said that the party’s policies ‘will cause chaos in the countryside’. ‘Well, they would say that, wouldn’t they’, I hear you say. But despite their natural bias, there’s certainly some truth in it.
Economically, of course a ban on what they call ‘grouse shooting and other “sport” shooting’ will affect the rural economy. Shooting alone, never mind other sports, is worth £2 billion to the rural economy, and supports 74,000 full-time jobs. If there are plans to increase the rural economy in other ways, that’s all well and good, but I can’t spot any.
It’s not just a matter of money. A lot of conservation also depends on shooting; owners of shoots spend £250 million per year on conservation and habitat management, and just last month the conservation director for the RSPB, Martin Harper, wrote on his blog that:
‘The contribution progressive shoots can make to supporting threatened wildlife is significant, and we are delighted to help them further. This isn’t a contradiction… Plenty of farmers with shoots provide beneficial habitat management for wildlife and we recognise and value this.’
The Green Party manifesto is also the first to mention horse racing – announcing their plans to ‘end the use of the whip in horse racing, and conduct a full review of the sport’. Do they actually want to ban the sport? Perhaps; Natalie Bennett told Andrew Marr on Sunday that ‘there are clearly animal protection issues’ involved in racing, and despite being asked a number of times, refused to rule out a ban. And, on this morning’s Today programme, Caroline Lucas openly admitted to using data about ‘horseracing animals’ that had been supplied by Animal Aid – who admit to wanting a ban on the Grand National, and run a ‘racehorse death watch’ website.
It’s unsurprising that the Greens have also pledged to maintain and strengthen the current ban on foxhunting, but more surprisingly they’ve also proposed ‘a complete ban on cages for hens and rabbits’ so they can be ‘returned to the land’. We can hope that proposal is simply badly worded, but it’s one that’s making headlines already. The foxes will certainly be pleased, that much is for sure. There’s more: how, for example, do they plan to ensure that none of UK taxpayers’ money is used to fund bullfighting in Spain?
Of course, that doesn’t mean that all of their so-called ‘animal protection’ and farming policies are flawed. A crackdown on the illegal wildlife trade is no bad thing; ditto improved food labelling (in the wake of the horse meat scandal), tougher regulations on animal transportation, increased localisation of the food chain, and a push for sustainable fishing policies, to name a few. The problem is, that as with so many animal rights campaigns, the ridiculous outweighs the sensible.