The Green Party believes that we should judge a society on how it treats its most vulnerable members, and in this spirit aims to tackle the mistreatment and exploitation of animals wherever it exists including in our homes, on farms, and in the entertainment industry.
Northern Ireland is the only region in the United Kingdom where hunting with dogs remains legal. The ‘pest-control’ argument used to justify this inherently cruel ‘sport’ has been completely discredited and recent polling by the League Against Cruel Sports shows that more than 80% of the population are in favour of a ban. The Green Party campaigns for the Hunting Act to be extended to Northern Ireland. We introduced a bill to this effect in 2010, however this fell due to a lack of support from other parties.
Badger culling has been proven by veterinary experts and relevant government agencies to be an ineffective means of reducing bovine Tuburculosis. As a result, thousands of badgers – which are protected animals – are being slaughtered unnecessarily. The Green Party pushes for science-led control of bTB, which involves frequent testing and vaccination programmes.
The push to intensify farming operations in Northern Ireland in order to increase exports of animal products has a detrimental impact on local farmers, the environment, and of course the animals themselves. The Green Party is strongly opposed to factory farming, and would see stricter animal welfare standards for farm animals including reduced maximum stocking densities, a ban on mutilations and non-stunned slaughter, and the introduction of CCTV in slaughterhouses.
Time after time, those found guilty of animal cruelty offences have been given a ‘slap on the wrist’ with punishments that in no way reflect the severity of their crimes. As a result, the current legal system does not provide sufficient enough a deterrent to protect innocent animals from cruelty and torture. The Green Party works with campaign groups in calling for stricter sentencing for those convicted of animal cruelty offences and a publicly available animal cruelty register.
Recent ‘puppy farming’ scandals have revealed that thousands of dogs are being raised in squalid conditions, by breeders who often put profit ahead of animal welfare. The Green Party believes more needs to be done to regulate and license dog breeders. We advocate restricting the number of dog breeding licenses issued and increasing welfare requirements, whilst backing this up with adequate inspections. We would introduce breeding licenses for cats and investigate moving beyond breed-specific legislation.
Veterinary experts agree that the needs of wild animals cannot be met in the environment of travelling circuses. Inadequate conditions, a lack of proper facilities, the stress of constant travelling, coercion to perform tricks – the reality is that these animals are being exploited and abused. A 2010 DEFRA report found that 94% of the public are in favour of a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses. Green Party council motions have seen a prohibition on circuses using wild animals obtaining the entertainment licenses that they need to operate.
The Green Party acknowledges the overwhelming scientific consensus regarding anthropogenic climate change. We are committed to measures that will tackle catastrophic climate change.
High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing or ‘Fracking’ has been proven to be detrimental to human health as well as the environment. It will also accelerate climate change and is a diversion from the clean, renewable energy sources we should be investing in. The Green Party therefore supports grassroots campaigns fighting fracking in their own localities, and brought forward an Assembly motion calling for a moratorium on fracking in Northern Ireland.
NI Climate Bill
Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK that does not have a Climate Bill. The UK government Committee on Climate Change has revealed that Northern Ireland is falling behind on its emissions reduction target (a 35% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2025). The Green Party continues to call on the Minister of the Environment to urgently introduce legislation to ensure that Northern Ireland contributes its fair share of emissions reductions to help stabilise the world’s climate, and his introduced Assembly motions to this effect.
Public transport/active travel
The Green Party believes that public transport is better for the environment and can offer a cheaper, quicker, safer mode of travel. Decades of under-investment in public transport in Northern Ireland have resulted in commuting patterns that have become over-reliant on car journeys. The Green Party is committed to working towards a fully integrated transport system under public transport. We would focus funding on the development of public transport, support employers who promote cycling to work, and introduce measures to give pedestrian priority in residential streets, including a 20mph speed limit in built up areas.
Fuel poverty is a major problem in Northern Ireland, affecting 42% of the population. More people die from the cold here than in Finland or Sweden, with children and older people being particularly vulnerable. The Green Party would invest in a home energy efficiency scheme which will reduce fuel costs and cut carbon emissions.
The Green Party strongly believes that renewable energy is the key to a sustainable economic and environmental future. Developing renewables will reduce household energy bills, guarantee long term security of supply, and enable Northern Ireland to play its part in helping to stabilise the world’s climate. We continue to promote the full use of readily available sources of renewable energy in Northern Ireland, and would provide the necessary support for the relevant markets and industries to develop and grow. We have brought a motion to the Assembly calling for a NI Climate Bill, which highlights the economic opportunities offered by the growth of renewable energy technologies.
The Green Party believes that the welfare of any society requires a high standard of environmental governance.
Independent environmental protection agency
Northern Ireland is the only party of the United Kingdom that does not have an independent environmental protection agency. Report after report for the past 40 years has advocated the establishment of such a body for Northern Ireland. The role of the Department of the Environment is compromised under the current system, therefore the Green Party supports the separation of regulation from the political interference which historically has served neither our citizens, nor environment. The Green Party brought a motion to the Assembly calling for the establishment of a fully independent and well-resourced environmental agency. In the meantime, in the absence of such an agency, we will continue to fight on issues which an independent agency should deal with, including addressing the unregulated sand extraction from Lough Neagh, Special Protection Areas, and unprecedented environmental waste crime which now seriously threatens the River Faughan Special Area of Conservation.