I have long thought that you can tell a lot about a country by how it treats its animals.
It says great things about Britain, therefore, that we were the pioneers of animal welfare long before other countries even considered that animals should be protected at all. The RSPCA was founded in London in 1824, by Yorkshireman William Wilberforce among others, and was the first animal welfare charity in the world.
The RSPCA and other animal welfare charities rely on the British public to fund their work, and their success is a tribute to our love of animals. I know that people in Bassetlaw have a particular passion for animals and their welfare, because of the thousands of emails and letters I get on the topic. The main issues that dominate that correspondence are the badger cull, fears that the hunting ban will be repealed by this Government, and international wildlife crime.
So if I know that Bassetlaw is a place of animal lovers, what have I done to represent this in Parliament and to the world since I became your MP in 2001?
I took a lead on work with WWF to push measures through Parliament to ensure that those who traded in endangered animals would be put in prison. I felt that it was unacceptable that people were making money out of killing and selling animals which were on the brink of extinction.
The last Labour Government put the Animal Welfare Act into law, widely considered to be the most important law on animal welfare in about a century.
Readers might find it useful to know my specific views on topical animal rights issues. Having voted under the last Government to bring in the hunting ban, I will continue to oppose any attempts to repeal the ban. In 2004 I was subject to a campaign of abuse for supporting the ban, and even had a death threat sent to me by a pro-hunting activist. These tactics never shook my resolve that we were right to ban it.
The current Government’s attempts to cull badgers have bordered on the farcical. I know that many people in Bassetlaw were pleased when it appeared that plans to expand the cull to other areas of the UK has been cancelled, but it appears that the Government has changed its plans once again, and will attempt to roll out the cull. I agree with the many people that the current cull plans are both cruel and ineffective.
I will continue to fight alongside organisations like WWF against the trade in endangered animals, and work to reflect the pride that people in Bassetlaw have in their pets and how well they expect animals to be treated.