Pesticides - Bees
There has been a lot of misinformation circulating about this issue, especially in relation to the bee population so I hope that the explanation below will help to clarify the situation.
This particular pesticide, under EU law, is not banned and has been used by 10 other EU nations since 2018. The UK Government has always been able to authorise its use, if necessary and with the appropriate advice from experts.
In 2018, the government supported new rules which prohibit the outdoor use of 3 neonicotinoids - clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam. In taking that position, the Government made it clear that it could consider emergency authorisations (in accordance with the relevant legislation) in special circumstances where authorisation for limited and controlled use appears necessary because of a danger that cannot be contained by any other reasonable means and where the risk to people, animals and the environment, and in particular to bees and other pollinators, is low.
After careful consideration of all the issues, the Government has decided to grant an application for emergency authorisation to allow use of a product containing the neonicotinoid thiamethoxam for the treatment of sugar beet seed in 2021. This is in recognition of the potential danger posed to the 2021 crop from beet yellows virus.
It is important to remember that Sugar beet is a non-flowering crop and therefore the risk to bees is low. In fact, it has been recognised that risks could be posed to bees from flowering weeds in and around the crop. Therefore, the use of the industry-recommended herbicide programme can minimise the number of flowering weeds in treated sugar beet crops.
The Secretary of State is satisfied there is sufficient evidence to indicate that residues of thiamethoxam and its metabolite deteriorate over time. With mitigation measures in place, the risks are low enough that the benefits outweigh them. Conditions are attached to the emergency authorisation to ensure that no flowering crops are planted as following crops for a period of at least 22 months, with an extended period of exclusion for oilseed rape (of 32 months), to minimise the risk to bees.
Campaign: Animal Sentience & Sentencing
The Government is committed to bringing in new laws on animal sentience strengthening our world-leading animal welfare standards and fully supports increasing the maximum custodial sentences for animal cruelty offences from six months to five years. Any necessary changes required to domestic legislation will be made in an effective and credible way and will be brought forward when parliamentary time allows. In the meantime, Defra is continuing to engage closely with stakeholders to further refine the Government's proposals on animal sentience.
Any necessary changes required to domestic legislation will be made in an effective and credible way and will be brought forward when parliamentary time allows.
Animal Testing - Dstl Porton Down
I disagree with the practice of animal testing, except where doing so will aid lifesaving research. The use of animals in scientific research remains a vital tool in improving our understanding of how biological systems work. Animals at facilities such as Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) are used in experiments for the development of new vaccines, treatments or medical procedures and not conducted to develop or test offensive weapons. As a result of this research, we will not only save the lives of UK service personnel but can also help civilians.
The Home Office will only allow animal testing if there is no alternative. The testing must be done under controls which keep the suffering of the animal to a minimum. The government is committed to ensuring that any animal testing licence granted under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 must rigorously and demonstrably apply the 3Rs (Replacement, Reduction and Refinement) principles. Implementing the 3Rs requires that, in every research proposal the number of animals tested is kept to an absolute minimum and that, for those animals which must be used, procedures are refined as much as possible to minimise their suffering.
Horse Racing (Whip)
I am keen to ensure that high standards of animal welfare are always upheld, including in relation to horseracing.
The British Horseracing Association (BHA) requires that whips be used responsibly and jockeys may only use the whip within certain strict rules. The BHA policy on the whip was drawn up in consultation with animal welfare groups, such as the RSPCA and World Horse Welfare, and is published on the BHA website.
The latest rules include a threshold on the number of times the whip can be used before racing stewards can consider an inquiry. If the rules are broken, the jockey may be banned from racing for a certain number of days depending on the seriousness of the offence. Stewards also have the ability to impose a fine on a rider between £200 and £10,000
In addition to sanctions from the sport, using the whip indiscriminately on a horse could be a criminal offence under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is satisfied that the laws and rules in place are sufficient to restrict and limit the use of the whip in horse racing.
Campaign: Tethering #BreakTheChain
Defra is keen to ensure that we uphold our high standards of welfare including in relation to tethering. Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 (the 2006 Act) it is an offence to fail to provide for an animal’s welfare or to cause it any unnecessary suffering. The Code provides owners and keepers with information on how to meet the welfare needs of their animals and includes a specific section on how to tether horses and other animals covered.
Defra considers that this legislation and guidance provides the right safeguards in respect of animal tethering however, admit that more can be done to spread best practice amongst horse owners. To spread this message, the government recently hosted a horse tethering roundtable with key stakeholders including horse welfare groups, local authorities and the RSPCA.
If anyone is concerned about the way a horse or other animal has been tethered they should report the matter either to the relevant local authority or to the RSPCA or World Horse Welfare who can investigate.
There is ongoing debate about trophy hunting, its contribution to wildlife conservation and links to wildlife trafficking. Those opposed to trophy hunting are calling for a ban on imports of hunting trophies into the UK. Currently, trophy hunting is legal as long as it complies with a country’s existing hunting legislation, including ensuring all proper permits have been obtained. Exports and imports of hunting trophies from endangered species must be licenced under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES). Control on imports of hunting trophies by the EU where strengthened in 2015 to address concerns about links to wildlife trafficking. Several countries have banned the import of hunting trophies. The UK government is not considering a ban but has stated that it does keep the rules constantly under review. However, I will talk to the relevant government Minister about this issue.
End the Cage Age
I support this campaign in principle. I see no need for birds to be kept in cages in this way. The practice originated many years ago, largely on the grounds of cost, but I would support its outlawing now. And when I buy eggs myself, I always make sure that they are free range. The situation regarding sows is a little more complicated. Very restrictive cages were banned in 1999, but sometimes sows are kept in crates for the protection of their piglets. This situation is under discussion, and again I would prefer to see the animals as free as they can be. I attended a meeting on this issue recently, and will continue to press for high animal welfare standards to be achieved and maintained. As well as encouraging high animal welfare standards in our own country, we do also need to try to ensure that we do not import food from countries where animal welfare standards are much lower than our own. This would not be fair to our own farmers, and would not be fair on consumers who believe in high standards.
Illegal puppy smuggling is an awful practice and the Government is determined to put an end to this.
Defra takes the issue of puppy smuggling and other illegal importation of pets seriously. It is an abhorrent trade which causes suffering to puppies and puts the health of pets and people in the UK at risk. We have legislation in place to ensure those guilty of offences are duly punished.
The end of the transition period has opened up new opportunities for managing our own pet travel arrangements and we are listening to the concerns of stakeholders around future requirements. The Government is developing a range of options to strengthen our efforts to tackle puppy smuggling, taking into consideration the recommendations of stakeholders and the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Select Committee.
I recently led a Westminster Hall debate on the issue of non-stun slaughter. This is of great concern to me personally, but also to my constituents and the wider public. I welcome the news that the Minister will be holding discussions with stakeholders from across animal welfare, religious communities and others so that we can move forward in ensuring we are doing all we can to prevent unnecessary suffering of animals at slaughter. You can read the full debate here: https://www.theyworkforyou.com/whall/?id=2019-04-03a.429.0&p=10505#g433.2