Understanding the public debate on fox hunting

We are pleased to announce that Dr Lucy Parry, who has been carrying out academic research into animal protection funded by the CASJ, has had another paper based on those investigations published in a peer-reviewed journal, British Politics. Lucy’s research looked into the public debates on fox hunting, using a technique called ‘Q methodology’ to analyse the different viewpoints on the matter, and then comparing the quality and content of Parliamentary debates on the topic.

Lucy finds that the debate in the ‘public’ sphere – in civil society amongst the public and NGOs – has focussed significantly on the issue of animals and their ethical and political status. However, in contrast, the debate in the ‘political’ sphere – i.e. Parliament and mainstream media – has been characterised by simplistic and exaggerated positions that distort and marginalise the really important issues relevant to hunting, particularly animal protection.

Lucy’s analysis raises a number of important concerns that point to important new research paths. For example, is the relative exclusion of animal welfare from political debates about hunting symptomatic of a wider inability or unwillingness of the British state to consider animals seriously?

Deliberating Animal Experiments

This article by Professor Rob Garner, from his CASJ-funded research, is an account of the work of the Boyd Group, an informal grouping of stakeholders on both sides of the debate about animal experimentation formed in Britain in the early 1990s. Published in the Global Journal of Animal Law, it is an explorative case study which aims to map the opinion-forming processes of the participants of the Boyd Group, many of whom were interviewed by the author, in light of deliberative theory and with the intention of generating suggestions for improved democratic practices in relation to animal welfare issues, and more broadly where representative bodies split by seemingly intractable moral differences.

Not only is animal experimentation a policy issue involving acute moral conflict, but the Boyd Group is also a body made up of partisans representing organisations on both sides of the debate. Not surprisingly, the transformation of views predicted by some deliberative theorists has not occurred. However, deliberation within the Boyd Group has had the effect of softening some of the views and attitudes of the participants, has facilitated some compromises and provides a useful guide to the methods available to those wishing to manage moral conflict.