On Sunday 7th October 2018, an estimated 5,000 dogs and their two-legged companions will march through central London to Parliament. Fuelled by a flawless social media campaign backed by funds from a public crowdfunder, the purpose of this march is to call for a People’s Vote on Brexit. A Wooferendum PETition signed by dogs, leading public figures and celebrities will be delivered to Downing Street by a delegation of canine campaigners.
“The enthusiasm for Wooferendum has been incredible,” says its founder, Daniel Elkan, who has been canvassing the opinions of canines and their owners for months. “People and dogs jump at the chance to express their feelings about Brexit, which is a tough topic, in a more friendly, engaging way. The movement is growing and the Wooferendum March on Sunday 7th October will be a fantastic day out. We want to create the biggest bark in history – by the dogs, for the people. The campaign might seem barking mad – but it’s not as mad as Brexit.”
I find Daniel’s enthusiasm very endearing, but I have to admit that I have mixed-feelings about ‘Wooferendum’ so we asked Daniel to 'throw us a bone' and answer some of our pressing questions in an attempt to try and understand the campaign a little bit better:
What inspired you to run this campaign?
“I woke up one Sunday morning and the word ‘Wooferendum’ appeared in my head. So I took a bit of white cardboard and made a sign, and then went to my local high street to ask some dogs whether they would like to join the Wooferendum, by posing with the sign. The reaction was amazing - people really wanted their dogs to be involved, and the dogs clearly felt the same way (you can’t make a dog sit next to a pawlitical sign that it doesn’t believe in - even with treats). I realised that so many people are against Brexit but haven’t really found a good way to speak out. The Wooferendum helps them do that.”
Are you concerned that people may think that you are poking fun at a very serious topic, or that some may see this as a silly gimmick/ publicity stunt? Or worse, that you are satirizing Brexit?
"A few people could see it that way. But I believe the vast majority of people get that when you have dogs getting political, the situation must be pretty bad. Like with many things, when the people who don’t normally talk about something are moved to speak out, it’s worth listening.
The campaign isn’t a publicity stunt, it’s a movement. But it will get lots of publicity. And Brexit is a really tough, dry topic. We need satire so that people feel they can engage. The Wooferendum enables and inspires far more people to speak out. And it’s vital that people do."
What effect will Brexit have on dogs in Britain and/or Europe?
"Brexit could be a disaster for dogs and other pets. Around half the vets starting work as vets in the UK each year are from non-UK EU countries and non-UK EU vets make up around 25% of the overall number of vets in the UK. A recent report from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons has found that Brexit could result in a major barrier to qualified vets from the EU working in Britain.
According to the National Office of Animal Health (NOAH), a no-deal Brexit could result in 40% of animal health products, including vaccines, painkillers, antibiotics and wormers having potential availability issues.
The EU Pet Passport scheme could also be suspended as a result of a no-deal Brexit. The scheme enables over 250,000 animals a year to travel with their owners across Europe and is of vital importance to rescue dogs entering Britain to find a new home.
Brexit could even impact the availability of UK pets’ favourite foods, according to the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association. The UK pet food industry is mostly made up of small or medium sized businesses, which are highly dependent on having access to the EU single market and customs union. A no-deal Brexit would result in many manufacturers going out of business due to rapidly rising raw material costs and the loss of access to their key markets within the EU."
Brexit has been a contentious topic right from the start. What measures have you put in place to ensure the welfare of the dogs attending the event in anticipation of any opposition on the day?
"The Metropolitan Police are policing the march for us. They will close roads as appropriate. We will also have plenty of volunteer stewards there. It’s going to be a really fantastic, friendly atmosphere and a great day to create the biggest bark in history."
- Daniel Elkan (Wooferendum founder)
Additional comments from Dominic Dyer, a leading animal welfare campaigner and one of the organisers of the Wooferendum Dog march: “We know Brexit will be disastrous for the people of Britain but it could also be equally bad for our pets. From a shortage of skilled vets and vet nurses, to rising costs for animal health and pet food products and even the end of the EU pet passport scheme, Brexit will be disastrous for the nations dogs and cats and other companion animals. If Brexit causes another recession on the scale of the financial crash of 2008, we can expect to see plunging living standards, forcing many people to give up their pets, leaving charities and shelters struggling to cope with the influx of animals in need of new homes.”
Following the Wooferendum March, we asked Daniel to answer a few follow-up questions:
Was the turnout as good as expected on Sunday?
I think it was about 2,500 - 3,000 people, and hundreds of dogs.
What impact do you think the event will have on Brexit?
The massive media coverage will have shown politicians that dog owners and dog lovers are something that they can’t ignore. We created a huge bark, and it’s when lots of different voices come together that real influence happens. The Wooferendum is engaging people and making Brexit something they can have a lot of fun speaking out against.
The campaign is ‘by the dogs, for the people’ but it also highlighted the threats to the pet-passport scheme, the ability for vets from EU27 countries to continue to work in the UK, the negative impact of Brexit on the pet food industry and animal welfare legislation.
Do you think Wooferendum attracted the right kind of attention?
The media attention was incredible - worldwide coverage, front page of the Times, first item on BBC news at 10, and TV stations around the world. Even the Mail Online did a nice piece containing a three-minute video.
Daniel also told us that similar events are likely to take place in the future including a specific campaign on Pet Passports.
Daniel and Dominic have really opened my eyes to the potential consequences that Brexit will have on Britain's pets, including Elsa...
'Wooferendum' succeeded in bringing like-minded people together and the movement has given dog owners a way of voicing their fears about the affects that Brexit will have on their pets but, despite the global media attention, I'm still not convinced that the concerns of dog owners will be at the top of the governments priorities, particularly in light of the wider issues that Brexit has created including the impact on the NHS, economy and British industry in general...
We'd love to hear what you think of Wooferendum! Did you take part in the march with your dog? Do you think that dogs have a place in politics? Have your say in the comments below!
#wooferendum | @wooferendum
[Note to Readers: Information gathered for this post has been taken from official Wooferendum Press Releases. Additional photos supplied by Wooferendum. With special thanks to Daniel Elkan for taking the time to answer Paws across Britain’s questions!]