Who are the EPOA? Good question and it was one I was asking myself until very recently. The EPOA are the English Pet Owners Alliance – quite a mouthful – and you may hear a lot more about them in the near future.
The EPOA matter because at the last Census there were 8.7 million pet owners, including many multiple pet households. The Census is nine years old now, so that figure has probably risen substantially. Research from FOMUK shows that pet owners put the welfare of their pets as their number 2 priority – ahead of education and hospitals but just behind law and order. Pet owners are an untapped section of the electorate and, as you know, Labour needs all the help it can get.
EPOA members have been hit hard by the current economic climate and they feel they need a voice to stand up for them. The price of pet food has almost doubled and there are concerns that we will soon be flooded by inferior Eastern European imports. This will not only harm pets (poorer quality) but also cut English jobs – as you probably know, pet food production is an important industry in cities such as Southend, Shrewsbury and Coventry.
After long internal discussion, the EPOA decided not to be present in the G20 protests, despite their economic concerns. In the end the practical complications were just too big. Imagine the noise if they all came to Westminster, and how would the protestors travel to the march? – public transport just could not cope.
Unfortunately, the EPOA have split from a united British organisation. They apparently had a bitter argument, and fists, accusations and paws were thrown. However, I am in touch with our Scottish and Welsh convenors, Martin Brown and Geraint Owens, to see if bridges can be built. Let us hope that in true Fabian tradition we can be at the heart of a progressive agenda for pet owners.
I believe the EPOA will become a significant player in the English political landscape. This is why we must listen to them.