Focusing on animal welfare is a smart move for Labour | Abi Wilkinson

Policies that motivate your base are no bad thing if they’re also popular among the wider electorate. Priorities such as a ban on exporting live animals will play well

During the last general election, animal welfare issues generated relatively little mainstream media attention. Though polls showed the vast majority of people opposed repealing the fox hunting ban, the consensus among commentators (myself included) was that the Conservatives’ manifesto pledge – to allow a vote on the issue in parliament – wouldn’t be a priority for voters. Other things, like the NHS, security, education and perceptions of competence, seemed far more likely to swing the result.

Meanwhile, on social media, something significant was happening. Not so much on Twitter, where journalists tend to spend a lot of their time. But over on Facebook, which has a far larger active user base, articles and videos about the potential legalisation of fox hunting went viral, sometimes racking up seven-figure view counts and reaching people who weren’t necessarily particularly politically engaged. The other big animal welfare story of the election – the Conservative U-turn on banning wild animals from circuses – spread similarly rapidly. That ban is also supported by the vast majority of voters and has already been implemented in Scotland.

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