ANIMAL welfare is dubbed the “least important rural issue” according to a new poll from the Countryside Alliance.

‘Unpacking the Environment’ aimed to examine voter attitudes towards various environmental issues including climate change, air pollution, wildlife preservation, oil spills, hunting and culling, from both rural and UK-wide voters.

The poll found that of the Conservative voters who took part, 24 per cent identified as rural and 35 per cent as semi-rural. This was compared to 39 per cent who identify as urban compared to 56 per cent of Labour voters identified as urban.

Out of 14,000 responses, figures showed that less than one in six adults (15 per cent overall) viewed animal welfare as an important rural issue when asked which three issues were the most important for political parties to address.

Hospitals and healthcare topped the poll at 49 per cent, followed by local transport links (37 per cent), then affordable housing, the impact of Brexit, crime, internet access/mobile connectivity, education, immigration and animal welfare.

Tim Bonner the chief executive of the Countryside Alliance said: “This research finds that when you actually unpack voters’ concerns on environmental issues, they are clearly much more worried about the planet, than they are about niche animal rights issues like hunting and badger culling. It is telling that four times more people are concerned about the decline in our bee population than they are about fox hunting.

“This tells us that there is no electoral downside in maintaining robust evidence-based wildlife management policies and that the furore that still exists when talking about hunting is no way representative of public opinion. Political parties should take note of the issues that people on the ground actually care about.”