Overcoming political polarisation

The majority of the population wants animals to be well cared for. I am convinced of this, despite the outcome of the vote on the Initiative to Abolish Factory Farming, where (only) 37 per cent of the voting population said YES on September 25, 2022. However, the post-vote survey results revealed significant ideological divides that I had not expected.

In the self-assessment covering the left-right political orientation, approval for the initiative declined from 86 percent (far left), to over 67 percent (left), 25 percent (centre), 13 percent (right) to 6 percent (far right). Correspondingly, differences based on party preferences are consistent with this: 85 percent of respondents with a Green orientation supported the popular initiative, then approval decreases from 71 percent (Social Democrats), over 50 percent (Green Liberal Party), 19 percent (The Centre) down to 10 percent (Swiss Peoples Party) and 8 percent (Free Democratic Party). My impression is that too often in politics there is no factual debate, instead, approval or rejection depends on the political affiliation of whoever originates an initiative or raises an issue.
A proposal from the centre-right cannot expect approval of the left-green and vice versa. This dynamic poses a risk for animal protection issues to fall victim to political partisanship.

The survey following the vote on the Initiative to Abolish Factory Farming proves that improvements in animal protection cannot be won with support from the left-green coalition alone. To secure a majority, it’s vital to win support from people across party lines.
The results of the Smartvote survey of candidates for the National Council and Council of States in autumn 2023 demonstrate this potential: For practically all parties, a larger proportion of those surveyed supported «stricter animal welfare regulations for the keeping of farm animals (e.g. permanent access to the outdoors)» than compared to the level of support shown for the Initiative to Abolish Factory Farming; For example, 20 percent of the Swiss Peoples Party, 33 percent of the Free Democratic Party, 50 percent of the Young Centre Party and 80 percent of the Green Liberal Party candidates. This shows that the potential to garner a majority in favour of improved animal welfare measures is real. The public still knows little about current animal production and even less about the advantages and opportunities of keeping fewer animals in better conditions. These are not only advantages and opportunities for the animals, but also for our health, the environment and agriculture.

A positive first step towards new majorities is the planned alliance of organisations that supported the Initiative to Abolish Factory Farming. Sentience has the opportunity to evolve into an organisation for animals that reaches out beyond ideological party politics. The target audience must be all individuals who care about animals, regardless of their political persuasion.

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