What does the UK election mean for animals?

May 6, 2010

Two more vegan MPs join parliament, some long standing campaigners go, and a controversial spoiler campaign forces out a pro-science MP.

Britain gets two more vegan MPs

Only one MP in the 2005-10 parliament was vegan – Kerry McCarthy, Labour MP for Bristol East.  This was a safe seat. Even though she might have accidentally broken election law with a tweet, she kept it.

Kerry McCarthy tweeted that two new Labour MPs are vegan.

Cathy Jamieson (Labour, Kilmarnock and Loudoun) has been the resident vegan in the Scottish Parliament since 1999. She took charge of Scotland’s courts and legal system as Justice Minister from 2003-7.  Although she happily signs helpful  “Early Day” motions on animal welfare, this former social worker seems to focus her politics more on children and the poor.

Chris Williamson (Labour, Derby North) is a trustee of the League Against Cruel Sports, and openly interested in animal welfare in Parliament. One activist blogs that he was hunt sabbing in the 1960s. There is no public reference to him being vegan (that I could find) He confirmed his veganism to me by email.

(Updated 10th July 2010, then 26th August with Chris Williamson’s confirmation. Added links Mar 20 2011.)

… and lost three campaigners

Two notable Labour party campaigners lost their seats, including David Drew who proposed an EDM asking for better labelling of vegetarian and vegan food. One retired.

The all-party group on animal welfare in the 2001-5 parliament was led by:

  • Eric Martlew (Lab, Carlisle, Chair) – retiring (and seat was lost)
  • Dr Nick Palmer (Lab, Broxtowe, Vice-chair) – defeated by Conservatives
  • Elliot Morley (Lab, Scunthorpe, Vice-chair) – held
  • David Amess (Con, Southend West, Treasurer) – held
  • Mike Hancock (LibDem, Portsmouth South, Secretary) – held

These two MPs stood out for the number of animal welfare Early Day Motions they proposed or seconded:

  • David Drew (Lab, Stroud) was defeated by Conservatives
  • Norman Baker (LibDem, Lewes), another veteran campaigner, held his seat

Update 12/5: Animal welfare coalition Vote Cruelty Free say that 43 MPs were elected after signing their pledge.

One Green MP joins them

The Green Party now have an MP. After targetting three seats, their big hope, Caroline Lucas, won in Brighton Pavilion. She is vegetarian, and the Green manifesto has more commitments on animal protection than the three main parties.

Animals Count lost its deposit

This vegan-led party contested one seat: Richard Deboo standing for Islington South.  The LibDems were fighting hard to take this marginal from Labour, failing by a wide margin. Richard won only 0.3% of the vote, compared to 0.8% won elsewhere in the 2009 European Election. The party reasonably put this down to being squeezed by tactical voting. They admitted disappointment and promised that they “will keep fighting”.

The Animal Protection Party force out a pro-animal experiments MP

The SPEAK campaign against animal experiments at Oxford University spun off a political party, which has in turn become the Animal Protection Party.

They stood four candidates, running attack campaigns against three sitting MPs they view as apologists for animal abuse and a “shut Wickham Laboratories” candidate in a new constituency. Even amongst longstanding vegans, their approach provokes controversy.

Keith Mann is their candidate against Dr Evan Harris in Oxford West and Abingdon. He a longstanding animal activist who has spent years in prison over convictions related to his activism, such as arson of meat lorries and contempt of court. His leaflets criticised Dr Harris not only for his support of the Oxford animal experiments, but also followed the mid-market pro-Conservative tabloid “Daily Mail” in labelling the pro-science secular LibDem as “Dr. Death”. They caricatured a range of other stances Dr Harris has taken that might repel voters – such as his support for secularism,  voluntary euthanasia, and evidence-based medicine. They could have mentioned his votes against the hunting ban, but didn’t. Anglican priest Lynda Rose sent out leaflets attacking him as “anti-life” and “anti-religion”. “Bad Science” Guardian columnist Ben Goldacre pleaded with his readers to support Dr Harris.

On the night, he lost to a social and political conservative by 176 votes.

Given that Dr Harris lost so narrowly, did the Animal Protection Party campaign make the difference between victory and defeat? The rationalist twitterati who found those leaflets “disturbing libellous” or “amusing” were joined by vegans like Jonny Nexus (LibDem) and Paul Blanchard (Lab) who were sorry to see this “evidence based campaigner” leave parliament.

All four results:

  • Oxford West and Abingdon, targetting Dr Evan Harris, who lost his seat to a Conservative
  • Huntingdon, targetting Jonathan Djangoly, who kept his safe seat
  • Vauxhall, targetting Countryside Alliance chair Kate Hoey, who kept her safe seat
  • Meon Valley, getting 255 votes (0.5%)

3 Responses to “What does the UK election mean for animals?”

  1. […] since 2009. This was always an experiment, and it did not find its audience – although the 2010 election blog post is now the top result on Google for “vegan […]

  2. […] should I ask the vegan MPs? On Monday I head over to Westminster to meet the UK’s three vegan MPs.  What do you think I should ask […]

  3. […] I talk about some of the other ways that animal activists engage with British politics in my Verdant Reports blog post about the 2010 UK general election. […]

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