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Animals, Democracy & Representation

For 2014, the CASJ has 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, is investigating 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 is analysing 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.

Professor Garner is also supervising our first CASJ PhD researcher, Anne Marie Matarrese, who is in the second year of her project to investigate ‘constitutional’ methods of representing animals. Her work is already yielding exciting new animal protection recommendations, as outlined in her ‘Towards joined-up animal welfare policy’ paper which has been submitted to the political parties. Anne Marie is exploring ideas such as an ‘Ombudsman’-style body to speak up for animal interests across all areas of government policy and can act as a counterweight against the overwhelming influence of vested interests over government departments, as demonstrated by the badger culling policy fiasco.

Our second PhD researcher is Lucy Parry who is supervised by our research advisor and co-founder Dr Alasdair Cochrane at the University of Sheffield.  Lucy is in the first year of her study and will be 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.

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 in animal research policy and related fields due to its lack of a ‘receptor’ for the animal welfare ‘virus’ (the 5-pointed star-shaped object). This is because there are no government institutions with a clear animal protection remit and the dominant belief systems in government policy-making are antagonistic to animal welfare, seeing it largely as an obstacle to business interests and profit-maximisation.

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 beyond 2014, 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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