As the Government introduces its Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill, I have been contacted by a number of constituents regarding its content. In particular, they are concerned about keeping primates as pets, live exports of animals for slaughter and fattening, and the importation of puppies.
On the first issue, I can categorically say that I support a ban on the keeping of and trade in primates as pets, as I believe it to be inhumane and wrong.
In my view, we need proper action on the issue of puppy smuggling, and I therefore support increasing the minimum age for puppies being imported to six months. I also share concerns about the cropping of dogs’ ears and believe we need legislation that is not only tighter but properly enforced. I am concerned that the Government has not brought forward measures on these issues quickly enough.
I further think that it is essential to call out people who put images of cropped dogs on social media platforms for likes, shares and followers, but who ignore the pain that comes with that dog. In addition to proper enforcement and stricter laws on this issue, I believe that the Government must make sure that animal welfare is properly included in the action being taken on online harms, to take account of how the online world can drive poor behaviour in relation to animals.
I also wrote to the Lord Chancellor, Robert Buckland, in light of the recent epidemic of pet theft, and advocated for tougher measures to address it. However, the Minister said that the Government had no plans to make any reforms to the pet theft laws.
I have long supported a ban on the exportation of live animals for slaughter of fattening. Before we left the EU, Ministers would say that we cannot change our policy because of EU laws, but now that we have left the EU, the Government should be able to support a ban without issue.
More widely, I support the appointment of an independent Animal Welfare Commissioner to ensure that government policy is continually informed by the latest scientific evidence on animal sentience and best practice in animal welfare. The Commissioner would ensure that animal welfare standards are always considered as legislation is introduced and as Britain takes part in international bodies, trade deals and obligations.
I support a vision where no animal is made to suffer unnecessary pain and degradation and where we continue to drive up standards and practice in line with the most recent advances and understanding. There is a need and an urgency to see better protection for animals, better enforcement, and better funding for services that are trying to look after them.
The Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill, which seeks to address these issues and more, was introduced to Parliament on 8 June 2021 and awaits its Second Reading. Because it is a Government Bill it should pass comfortably, and I hope that, when it does pass, it will contain many overdue animal welfare protections, including the ones that I detailed above. This is certainly what my Opposition Colleagues and I will be pushing for.