Voters ‘do not give a damn’ about animal welfare issues such as the badger cull at election time, research from ORB International has shown.
Johnny Heald, the pollster’s managing director, said it was ‘very clear’ the environment was becoming a top five concern for the voting public, but animal welfare was not one of the green subjects people considered important.
Speaking at a Countryside Alliance fringe event at Conservative Party Conference in Manchester this week, Mr Heald said: “When we run a survey and we say to people what is the first thing which comes to mind when it comes to the environment, it is clearly plastics, recycling, packaging, climate change, pollution, deforestation, wildlife extinction or sea pollution.
“Nowhere do people really talk about animal welfare spontaneously. It is not an issue which is necessarily going to shift votes.
“We had over 12,000 responses to this question and 62 people mentioned badger culling or fox hunting.
“The bee population was considered four times more important to voters than anything to do with animal welfare.”
Tim Bonner, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance, went further, branding animal rights campaigns over the past 10-15 years ‘politically-motivated’.
“We can honestly say nobody cares about this,” he told attendees at the event.
“We have polled on hunting, we have polled on the badger cull, and nobody has ever given a damn.”
Farming Minister George Eustice, who was also on the panel, disagreed, pointing out about 70 per cent of the correspondence Defra receives relates to animal welfare.
Another speaker, Onward senior research fellow Guy Miscampbell, suggested animal welfare is the focus of so much attention because it is a ‘permission issue’ which voters use to assess whether or not a party shares their values, before giving them a hearing on anything else.
“If people see a grizzly video or something related to that, they think if a party is in favour of this, I am not going to give them the time of day on the rest of the issues,” he said.
Mr Miscampbell also pointed out it was much easier for Government to ‘deliver’ on animal welfare by banning niche practices than explaining complex policies.