Buttering parsnips with MPs yields some good news for UK animals

Each autumn, the three main UK political parties each hold their annual conventions. This year the Liberal Democrats were in Birmingham, Labour in Liverpool and the Conservatives came to Manchester. Many thousands of politicians, party members, journalists and people wishing to influence them crammed into comparatively small spaces and talked and talked and talked.
 

Each autumn, the three main UK political parties each hold their annual conventions. This year the Liberal Democrats were in Birmingham, Labour in Liverpool and the Conservatives came to Manchester. Many thousands of politicians, party members, journalists and people wishing to influence them crammed into comparatively small spaces and talked and talked and talked.

But, “fine words butter no parsnips”, as my mum would have said. The International Fund for Animal Welfare work at these conferences is to make sure that some of the talk turns into positive action for animals and conservation. This year our aim was to highlight and secure action for the protection and conservation of the sadly dwindling number of elephants worldwide.

Over the past three weeks I have met with dozens of Members of Parliament, including the Opposition Minister Gavin Shuker MP, who was very supportive of the work we are doing, and Government Ministers, their staff, local councillors, party officials and journalists. Fully briefed by our experienced parliamentary staff, I was able to carry the right message to the right ears time after time.

Last night was the culmination of all our efforts this year when we hosted an event called “Follow the Herd” with the UK Minister for the Natural Environment and Fisheries, Richard Benyon MP, Dan Bucknell from the Elephant Family and our very own Vivek Menon, IFAW’s Director in India. It was a pleasure to chair this meeting. As well as three excellent speeches and a fascinating range of informed questions from a packed room, we also secured some valuable commitments from the Minister about the steps he intends the UK to take in defence of elephants and their habitats.

Not only did he firmly and passionately call for no further sales of ivory stockpiles, but he also committed the UK Government to be at the vanguard of a concerted push to ensure that this would also be the collective European Union position at the next CITES meeting. The Minister also covered another area close to our hearts when he made an undertaking to encourage collaboration between his Ministry and the Overseas Development Ministry, DFiD, to make sure that extensive foreign aid expenditure includes positive outcomes for the biodiversity that poor people often benefit from.

Together with the Elephant Family we were encouraged to hear the commitment from the Minister to not forget the Asian elephant and to join the growing call for an Asian Elephant Action Plan. The only area where we felt a little disappointed was in the Minister’s response to the IFAW request that the UK Government make a financial contribution to the African Elephant Action Plan. The Minister was supportive but money, apparently, is too tight to mention… However, three positive responses out of four is pretty good going and you might be able to see why I’m sitting here on my train feeling that the IFAW team’s months of preparation for the party conference season paid off once more.

Of course, the job’s not done until those parsnips actually get buttered, so we will carefully follow the bureaucratic trail that will flow from the positive commitments made. We will also call on our supporters and members of the public to throw their weight behind us through our ivory amnesty and online campaign spearheaded by Leonardo DiCaprio. Your help is invaluable in our work. --RM 

Post a comment

Experts

Azzedine Downes,Executive Vice President for International Operations, VP of P
President and Chief Executive Officer
Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Dr. Ralf (Perry) Sonntag, Country Director, Germany
Country Director, Germany
Erica Martin, Vice President of Communications
Vice President of Communications
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
Isabel McCrea, Regional Director, Oceania
Regional Director, Oceania
Jason Bell, Program Director, Elephants Regional Director, South Africa
Program Director, Elephants, Regional Director, South Africa
Jeffrey Flocken, Regional Director, North America
Regional Director, North America
Jordi Casamitjana, Campaigns and Enforcement Manager, IFAW UK
Campaigns and Enforcement Manager, IFAW UK
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Whales
Director, International Policy & Program Planning
Director, International Policy & Program Planning
Peter Pueschel, Director, International Environmental Agreements
Director, International Environmental Agreements
Robbie Marsland, Regional Director, United Kingdom
Regional Director, United Kingdom
Sonja Van Tichelen, Regional Director, European Union
Regional Director, European Union
Tania McCrea-Steele, Campaigns and Enforcement Manager, IFAW UK
Campaigns and Enforcement Manager, IFAW UK