My first ‘proper’ job was working as a Parliamentary Researcher for an MP in the House of Commons. It was very exciting, for a gal from Birmingham, to work in an office where you could hear Big Ben chime and were you could look out at the River Thames from the cafeteria. It was weird that both (then future Mayors of London) Boris Johnson and Sadiq Khan’s offices were located in the block I worked in – with a corridor that was dark, dank and where, I shit you not, mushrooms once grew in the carpet beneath a leaky radiator.
I saw current and future Prime Ministers strolling around the Parliamentary Estate like they’re just actual human beings – and will always judge them on whether or not they held the door open for me (George Osborne) or let it slam in my face (David Cameron).
I also saw how persuasive people’s letters to Parliamentarians can be. When it came to voting in the Commons the MP I worked for would consider the tone and volume of letters she had received from the people who elected her to Parliament. If you care about something I firmly believe, even if it doesn’t feel like it, it’s worth raising your voice and making yourself heard.
In April 2016 Ministers from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs backed down on plans to repeal farm animal welfare codes. They abandoned plans to put the poultry industry in charge of the guidance on chickens. In performing the U-turn they said: “In light of views raised, we have given the matter further consideration and believe we can achieve this objective by retaining the existing statutory codes.” A clear sign that opposition to proposals can make a difference.
If you see animal welfare issues that concern you – research on primates, conditions for battery chickens, fox hunting, greyhound racing, the lack of CCTV in slaughterhouses, the labeling of vegan items in supermarkets, and so on – and have the time and resources to write to your Member of Parliament and/or to the relevant Government Minister then go for it.
In order to find out who your MP is use the Parliament.UK website. You can find the relevant Minister to lobby by looking at the Ministerial responsibilities on the relevant department websites. I guess in most animal welfare cases it would be DEFRA, the Home Office or the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
Keep your correspondence polite, even if you’re mad as hell about the issue, let the MP know that you are their constituent and expect a reply and try and ask for particular actions or direct questions to stop them from answering with an ambivalent response. Provide any and all facts you have as they are so much harder to politicians to rebut. If you can make your correspondence as precise and powerful as possible.
TheyWorkForYou can show you how MPs have voted on issues before so you can write to them armed with intelligence on how they’ve behaved previously, if they were elected at the time of particular relevant votes.
Tweeting at MPs (politely) is another way of amplifying your campaign and if you can encourage your friends, family and internet-buddies to do the same then there’s a good chance that together you’ll be even more effective. Animals don’t have a voice and with so much in our society built around how we grow the economy, reminding MPs that these issues are important is a noble, powerful and effective use of your time.