Vanessa Hudson, Animal Welfare Party candidate for Bethnal Green and Stepney
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Vanessa Hudson: leader of the Animal Welfare Party and candidate for Bethnal Green and Stepney

As part of The Slice Tower Hamlets’ coverage of the general election, we interview Vanessa Hudson, leader of the Animal Welfare Party and parliamentary candidate in Bethnal Green and Stepney.

If you’ve voted in a London mayoral election or London Assembly election recently you’ve likely seen the Animal Welfare Party (AWP) on your ballot paper – their mayoral candidate received a modest 29,280 votes from Londoners when they went to the polls this May. Now their leader Vanessa Hudson is standing in the general election for the seat of Bethnal Green and Stepney.  

It is one of only four constituencies where the party is standing a candidate; all four are standing in their home constituencies. Hudson moved to Bethnal Green fifteen years ago, around the time that she became involved in what was then known as ‘Animals Count’.

She has led the party since 2010. She is under no illusion that they are likely to win a seat in this election but, she says ‘each time we stand, the number of votes goes up’.

She went on: ‘And that shows that there’s growing support for these issues […] on the back of the leaflets are our key policies for this election, you know, on there, I’ve got the policy of the fact that we need to stop the transit, the import of live animals, including monkeys, macaques from other countries into the UK to supply the animal testing industries. And I don’t really think there’s a single person who would read that policy and go, actually, you know what, I think that sits well with me.’

So, is the AWP just using this election campaign as a vehicle to amplify animal issues? Absolutely not, according to Hudson, who insists it’s about growing the party and winning votes. She said: ‘We contested the mayoral election this year, and we contested it previously in 2021, when I was a candidate, it was definitely an increase in votes by many thousands between 2021 and 2024 […] our political system in the UK, as we all know, it’s incredibly difficult for small parties to make headway. We know it’s a long-term project. And we’re prepared for that, because this is so important.’ Unsurprisingly, she’s a strong advocate for proportional representation which, it is believed, would allow small parties a better chance at winning seats. 

Unusually for a political party in the UK, the AWP is part of a wider network of political groups with similar aims that receive government funding in the Netherlands and France; this network is where much of the funding for the UK branch of the AWP comes from to pay for costly election campaigns. 

The policies that they would like to see instated are radical: they believe that the key to saving our NHS is ‘an urgent transition to healthy and sustainable plant-based diets’. They would like to see the ownership of pets subject to ‘compulsory licensing, tightening breeding regulations & ending breed-specific legislation’, which would mean a reversal of the Conservatives’ ban on XL bullies; they advocate an end to all animal testing with ‘binding targets for reduction combined with proper funding & real support for non-animal methods’. 

But what about Bethnal Green and Stepney; is the AWP offering local policies that would tackle the housing crisis, growing foodbank use, the NHS, or other issues that readers of The Slice have told us they care about? Hudson points out that the party has spoken about the ‘need to protect green spaces. In fact, we need to rewild vast areas of London, we need more tree planting’. She refers to what she describes as the party’s ‘policy on health’ – encouraging a transition to a vegan diet. 

This is a party that places animal concerns above all else, they aren’t ashamed of that. They want to make these concerns ‘part of the political debate’ and they want your vote to help them do that. 

Listen to the full interview here: 

For more of our election coverage, watch our interview with Peter Sceats, Reform candidate for Bethnal Green and Stepney

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