Animal Welfare

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.

Trophy Hunting

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.

Wild Animals in Circuses

The Wild Animals in Circuses Bill has been introduced by the Government into the Commons. This will ban the use of wild animals in travelling circuses in England by January 2020. The Government is at the forefront of animal welfare issues internationally, from tackling puppy smuggling to the illegal ivory trade. The use of animals in circuses has no place in modern society and I welcome the introduction of this Bill. 

Puppy Smuggling

Illegal puppy smuggling is an awful practice and the Government is determined to put an end to this. The Secretary of State has outlined the steps which are already being taken to tackle this trade including increasing resourcing at major UK ports and identifying non-compliant animals destined for Dover and Folkestone ports.

Defra is considering a number of options for increased deterrent and improved enforcement as part of a long term strategy for pet travel. Stricter penalties, including the possibility of introducing Fixed Penalty Notices, are being considered. We are also evaluating the benefits of ensuring visual checks on all travelling pets, besides the documentary and identification checks that all pets are currently subject to at the UK border.

In July 2018, Defra hosted a well-attended workshop with key stakeholders from national and local government, NGOs, transport carriers, veterinary groups and others, including the Animal Health and Welfare Board of England, Border Force, RSPCA, Dogs Trust, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home and Canine and Feline Sector Group.

Through group discussions throughout the day, ideas for a 2030 vision were identified under five themes: Animal Welfare; Biosecurity; Enforcement; Consumer Demand; Sales & Licensing. These ideas, and others generated through ongoing work in this area, will inform the future long term strategy for pet travel.

Defra is committed to tackling the puppy smuggling journey from end to end – putting the spotlight on both supply and demand. We continue to work with border enforcement partner agencies, including Border Force, to ensure our enforcement work keeps pace with this evolving crime.

After the UK leaves the EU, the rules will not change in the short term for pets entering the UK under the Pet Travel Scheme or commercial import rules. However, looking to the future, leaving the EU will open up new opportunities for managing our own pet travel arrangements, including ensuring there are robust controls on disease and animal welfare. Defra is considering a number of options for increased deterrent and targeted enforcement as part of a long term strategy for pet travel.

Non-Stun Slaughter

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