Deliberative democracy has the potential to increase consideration of, and sympathy for, the interests of animals.

The CASJ has supported ground-breaking research by Professor Rob Garner and Dr Lucy Parry that has produced vital insights about how more ‘deliberative’ democratic processes are likely to be positive for animal protection.

Academic research into democracy has seen a ‘deliberative turn’ over the past quarter of a century. Deliberative democracy critiques traditional ‘aggregative’ types of democracy – that focus simply on counting votes while ignoring how people arrive at their voting preference – as significantly flawed. One serious weakness is that they are too open to abuse by powerful interests – such as animal harm industries – with money and the capacity to manipulate public opinion and the implementation of legislation. Sadly, this situation is a good description of the biased and dysfunctional state of British animal-related public policy.

In contrast, under deliberative democracy, legitimate decision-making requires reasoned and detailed discussion involving input from all affected interests, including representatives of nonhuman animals. This can take place in arenas such as ‘citizens’ juries’ that are set up specifically to examine an issue and are comprised of representative samples of the public. Alternatively, it can be implemented in a systematic manner whereby high quality deliberation by legislators, implementing authorities, affected interests and the public is encouraged throughout the political decision-making process.

Deliberative democracy has the potential to increase consideration of, and sympathy for, the interests of animals because:

(a) Its insistence on inclusivity would ensure that the public and animal advocates would get their views listened to, rather than industry continuing to totally dominate.

(b) Its insistence upon mutual respect of, and empathy for, the arguments and interests of others can promote consideration for the wellbeing of hitherto-neglected nonhuman animals.

The real-world examples where animal issues – such as xenotransplantation, farm animal welfare, openness in animal research and community management of dogs and cats – have been subject to deliberation provide strong evidence that deliberative democracy is indeed more helpful to animal protection compared with current public policy approaches.

Our work on democracy highlights the need for animal advocates to pay much more attention to the wider political context that has a massive impact on their chances of success, rather than continuing to focus in a reactive and narrow way on immediate animal issues.

What the CASJ is doing:

  • Supporting research and disseminating findings on the links between better democracy and animal protection
  • Encouraging animal protection NGOs to support deliberative approaches to decision-making
  • Developing deliberative democracy exercises to investigate and publicise informed public opinion on animal issues