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Animals, Democracy & Representation

During 2014-5, the CASJ recruited the UK’s leading political scientist in the field of animal protection, Professor Rob Garner, to progress our unique research programme. Professor Garner, who is based at the University of Leicester,  investigated the relationship between democracy and animal protection, such as the question of how can the vital interests of nonhuman animals be represented in democratic systems? Would more ‘deliberative’ forms of democracy promote better representation for animals and/or public demands for their protection? As part of this project, Professor Garner has analysed the deliberative qualities and impact of the ‘Boyd Group’, which has been an unofficial forum aiming to promote open discussion on the polarised topic of animal experimentation. A report based partly on this research has been published and peer-reviewed journal articles are now emerging, such as this article in the European Journal of Political Theory.

We are also co-funding PhD researcher Lucy Parry, who is supervised by our research advisor and co-founder Dr Alasdair Cochrane at the University of Sheffield.  Lucy is now in the third year of her study and is addressing questions such as: how are animals portrayed and represented in the different arguments – or ‘discourses’ – relating to hunting; how does this impact on laws and policy in this area; would better quality – i.e. more ‘deliberative’ – debate improve animal protection; what broader lessons can be drawn for the future of animal protection in general?

Our research is coordinated by the CASJ’s CEO, Dr Dan Lyons. His current research builds on his award-winning investigation into the Politics of Animal Experimentation, which revealed a radical lack of regard for animal welfare in this policy area. Dan is analysing the scale and causes of animal harm and, given those circumstances, which reforms would be both politically feasible and effective as a means of establishing animal protection as a significant goal of government policy. He recently presented a paper on this developing research at the annual Political Studies Association conference in Sheffield.

This animation illustrates a new concept in political science and the study of public policy recently developed by Dan Lyons and builds on his research and Jeremy Richardson’s analogy of ideas as ‘viruses’*.

Dr Lyons advances understanding of which ideas become genuinely influential in public policy by extending the analogy to incorporate the receptors that are essential for viruses to replicate. The animation represents the UK government’s disregard for animal welfare due to its lack of a ‘receptor’ for the animal welfare ‘virus’ (the 5-pointed star-shaped object). This metaphor expresses the lack of any government institutions with a clear animal protection remit and the dominant belief systems in government policy-making which are antagonistic to animal welfare, seeing it largely as an obstacle to business interests and profit-maximisation.

Our research agenda for 2016

  • Drawing up plans for potential deliberative democracy exercises to understand and measure public attitudes towards animal protection issues.
  • Investigating options for a proposed new government body with an animal protection remit – e.g. an ‘Animal Protection Commission’ (APC). Such an institution is necessary for animal protection values to establish a firm foothold in public policy.
  • Developing a methodology and collating data to assess animal welfare standards in the UK and other countries. We are also researching the way government and stakeholders measure animal welfare standards and the use of such measurements in political debate and policy-making.
  • Examining the implications of the current exclusion of animal welfare as a direct factor in UK government policy impact assessments. What does this exclusion imply regarding the status of animal welfare in public policy and what are its impacts on animal welfare? How could animal welfare be incorporated effectively and fairly into policy impact assessments?

Research Partner – Animals in Philosophy, Politics, Law and Ethics (APPLE) – Queen’s University, Kingston, Canada

In the burgeoning field of animal studies, Animals in Philosophy, Politics, Law and Ethics at Queen’s University is establishing a home for scholars focused on the ethical, legal and political dimensions of human-animal relationships. We live in an unprecedented era of animal exploitation, habitat destruction, and species loss, prompting many to reconsider the ethics and sustainability of our treatment of non-human animals.  APPLE’s goal is to help bring ‘the animal question’ into the mainstream of academic research and public debate in Canada, focusing in particular on the moral, legal and political dimensions of how human-animal relations are governed. Animal ethics has secured a foothold in certain corners of bioethics and law, but the animal question must transform our most basic concepts of society and polity. We live in a more-than-human world, and our social and political lives unfold in an inter-species context. Fully acknowledging these facts of inter-species relationships requires a new way of theorizing society and politics that puts human-animal relations at the core of law, ethics and politics, with profound implications for a wide range of public policies. APPLE’s aim is to promote this new scholarship, and to inform the growing public debate on these issues.

CASJ and APPLE look forward to future collaborations on establishing a framework and institutions for democratising animal protection policy.

Fund our Research

As our research progresses, the CASJ will publish our findings and communicate them to animal advocates, politicians and other interested parties as we develop practical recommendations for historic advances in animal protection. We are now seeking funding and sponsorship to be able to continue and expand our research. Please contact us if you are interested in supporting our ground-breaking work.

* Richardson, J. (2000) ‘Government, Interest Groups and Policy Change’. Political Studies, 48: 1006-1025.

The Centre for Animals and Social Justice is a charitable company limited by guarantee (No. 7681014) in England and Wales.
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