I have been contacted by many constituents about the very important issue of animal welfare. As an animal lover myself, this is an issue that I take extremely seriously, and I am proud to be continuing the work that Sir David Amess did on this. I recently became patron of the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation, which aims to improve the lives of animals not just in this country but around the world. I am very proud of their work in improving animal rights, and I want to assure you that I am absolutely committed to being a champion for animals in Parliament. You can find out more about the work of the CAWF here.
One of the first campaigns that I initiated following my election was to call for dog-on-dog attacks to be made an offence after one of my constituent’s dogs, Milly, was, mauled to death in a vicious attack by another dog. Extraordinarily, the owner of a dog who kills another dog is not liable for prosecution at the moment, and I am determined to end this loophole. This campaign has been featured in the Daily Express, and you can read more about it here - Calls for dog-on-dog attacks to be made offence after beloved pet mauled to death | Politics | News | Express.co.uk
The Government has been doing a lot of work to improve animal welfare, and has set out an ambitious set of reforms, which can be found in the Action Plan for Animal Welfare. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/action-plan-for-animal-welfare
In May 2021, the Government set out a series of ambition reforms in the Action Plan for Animal Welfare. Since 2010, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has had a strong track record in delivery reforms and passing legislation. This includes banning the use of conventional battery cages for laying hens, making CCTV mandatory in slaughterhouses across England, banning the use of wild animals in circuses and introducing the strongest ivory ban in the world.
Other measures introduced include the mandatory microchipping of dogs in 2015 and the modernisation of the licensing system for dog breeding and pet sales. I understand that Ministers have been working to add a new requirement for the compulsory microchipping of cats. In 2021, the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act came into force, raising the maximum sentence for animal cruelty from 6 months to 5 years.
The Animal Welfare (Sentience) Act formally recognises animals as sentient beings in domestic law and ensures that animal sentience is taken into account when developing policy across Government through the creation of an Animal Sentience Committee, which will be made up of animal experts from within the field.
Further, the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill will bring in some of the world’s strongest protections for pets, livestock and kept wild animals. This includes introducing a ban on keeping primates as pets, banning the export of live animals for slaughter and fattening, and also addressing the unethical trade of puppy smuggling by reducing the number of pets that can travel under pet travel rules. I look forward to supporting this Bill as it continues to progress through Parliament.
Ministers recognise the welfare concerns related to foie gras and are actively considering further steps that could be taken. The Government is committed to exploring potential action in relation to animal fur, as set out in the Action Plan for Animal Welfare and launched a call for evidence on the fur sector. The Government has been considering options relating to the advertising and offering for sale of unacceptably low welfare activities using force feeding.
Regarding cages, I am aware that the Government has been working to improve the welfare of farmed animals and transitioning to non-caged systems. We absolutely must ‘End the Cage Age’, and Ministers will work with producers and the food sector to raise animal welfare standards. Any decisions that are made on cage reforms need to take full consideration of the implications for animal welfare and for the sectors concerned, including a realistic phase out period to secure achievement of our better welfare goals and sustainability for the industry.
Finally, Ministers are committed to ban the import of hunting trophies from thousands of species. This will be one of the toughest bans in the world and will protect endangered animals and help to strengthen and support long-term conservation. The Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill has been formally introduced to Parliament and I look forward to supporting this Bill.
I am also backing calls to ban the use of animals in medical research. I made a speech in Parliament recently for an event held by Animal Free Research UK to highlight this appalling practice, and to call the Government to ban animal testing in the UK. You can read more about the event here, and you can read a full copy of my speech here.