Campaign: " A Better Deal for Animals"
I am proud of the high levels of animal welfare and standards we have in the UK, with the Government tackling issues such as puppy smuggling, the ivory trade, trophy hunting and plastic pollution in our oceans. I have received many emails asking me to take steps to ensure animal sentience is recognised in law. I will also be attending the event on this issue in the House of Commons on 26th February. The Government has said:
The Government will ensure that any necessary changes required to UK law are made to ensure animal sentience is recognised after we leave the EU. In December 2017, the Government published the Draft Animal Welfare (Sentencing and Recognition of Sentience) Bill and ran a public consultation on the draft Bill. The House of Commons' Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Select Committee also undertook pre-legislative scrutiny of the draft Bill and Defra responded to EFRA’s report in March 2018. In August 2018, Defra published a summary of responses to the public consultation and since then Defra has continued to engage closely with stakeholders to further refine the Government's proposals on sentience.
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:
We have increased resourcing at major UK ports. In partnership with Dogs Trust, enforcement bodies and transport carriers, we are identifying non-compliant animals destined for Dover and Folkestone ports. This partnership began in December 2015, and has since then resulted in over 800 puppies being seized and placed into quarantine.
We are also working to develop long term solutions through an intelligence led task force.
Many owners do not know the true origin of their pet. We have published guidance for owners on buying a pet responsibly, which includes advice on what to look out for. A wider public communications campaign is also being planned.
At an international level, we are currently a member of the EU Platform on Animal Welfare, which includes work on illegal dog imports.
We have also introduced new licensing regulations intended to drive up welfare standards for a range of activities involving animals, including dog breeding, which came into effect on 1 October. We have recently consulted on a proposed ban on third party sales of puppies and kittens. This would mean that those looking to buy or adopt a puppy would need to deal directly with the breeder, or with an animal rehoming centre.
Caging of Gamebirds
I am in favour of anything that will improve the welfare of animals, so this is a matter I have the utmost sympathy over. Although providing them with more space would be more ideal, the Defra commissioned research into gamebird rearing undertaken between 2010 and 2012 concluded that providing increased space for gamebirds, such as partridges and pheasants, does not necessarily equate with enhanced welfare. The Farm Animal Welfare Committee (FAWC), was tasked with the consideration of all aspects of gamebird farming to lead into future work in this area. The outcome of this assessment was published in 2008 an can be found here:
I am in favour of food labelling including the means of slaughter. Although the UK already has some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world, we are considering what more can be done in the context of our future agricultural policy. We will maintain our high regulatory baseline and look to raise standards sustainably over time as new research and evidence emerges. We are already acting to improve the welfare of livestock through, for example, making CCTV mandatory in slaughterhouses, increasing the maximum sentences for animal cruelty to five years, and working to restrict exports of live animals for slaughter once we leave the EU. We are working with sector groups, retailers, welfare organisations and the Farm Animal Welfare Committee to define a range of enhanced standards.
In 2016, the then Minister for the Environment, Rory Stewart commissioned a study on lion conservation with respect to the issue of trophy hunting. Defra is currently looking carefully at trophy hunting imports to ensure that they do not impact on the sustainability of endangered species.
The Government takes the conservation of species seriously and we will always do whatever we can to protect the world’s most iconic species. The UK is a Party to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) a global environmental agreement which aims to protect wildlife from unsustainable trade. Trophy hunting is not banned under CITES but Parties are required to have strict controls in place when trade in hunting trophies takes place. A permit will only be issued if no detrimental impact on the sustainability of endangered species can be shown and the trophy has been obtained from a legal and sustainable hunting operation.