50 Animal charities unite to urge Government not to waste ‘once in a generation’ opportunity to protect animals
An unprecedented coalition of 50 animal welfare charities is urging the UK Government not to waste a ‘once-in-a-generation opportunity’ to redefine our relationship with animals through a new animal health and welfare strategy.
The group has today (SAT) released a report - “Act Now For Animals” - setting out the sector’s priorities for creating a society which rebalances the way we rear, live and work with animals.
Crucial to the paper’s 40 recommendations, which cover everything from the welfare of companion animals, wildlife and exotics to animals reared for food, is the role of the new Animal Sentience Committee. For the Government to fulfill its commitment to recognise animals as sentient beings, the coalition are clear that the committee must have real teeth. It must be independently chaired, made up of the leading animal welfare experts in the country and be able to meaningfully hold Ministers to account.
Chris Sherwood, Chief Executive of the RSPCA, said: “We are hoping to see big announcements for animal welfare this week and this year provides a once-in-a-generation opportunity to redefine our relationship with animals - for the benefit of us all.
“The Covid pandemic has laid bare the inextricable link between people, planet, animals, food and health. We are more aware than ever how the way we live our lives impacts climate change and biodiversity. There is a growing realisation throughout society that change is urgent and necessary. Brexit means we are in a position for the first time in nearly 50 years, to set our own trade policy and animal welfare standards for the food we import.
“Piecemeal legislation is no longer an option; we need the Government to provide a clear vision and direction for animal health and welfare through a cohesive and comprehensive new strategy. From right across the animal welfare sector, we have come together to amplify our voices on behalf of animals.”
Chris Packham, who has lent his support to the charities, added: “The last animal welfare strategy was 17 years ago in 2004 and so much has changed since then. The past two decades have seen an attitudinal change in the public and growing scientific understanding that animals have emotions, feelings and needs and deserve a good life.
“We must act now for animals and ensure the Government does not squander this opportunity to build a world-leading animal welfare strategy, fit for the 21st century and deserving of this nation of animal lovers.”
Other influential names lending their support to the action include DJ Sara Cox, TV personality Angela Rippon, choreographer and TV presenter Arlene Phillips, actress and wildlife campaigner Virginia McKenna and actress Carol Royle.
The Green Paper, which has received cross party support, sets out 40 recommendations across species to address the most pressing welfare issues facing animals now, including:
Farm animal welfare:
- An end to live exports for slaughter and further fattening
- A ban on farrowing crates for sows and cages for hens and ensuring the UK’s new farm payment systems do not give money to farms who continue to operate cage systems
- Reduced stocking densities for meat chickens so we no longer see 19 birds living in one square metre.
- An end to chicken breeds which have been genetically selected to grow to slaughter weight in around just 35 days after hatching
- Mandatory method of production labelling for food products in the UK and those imported under trade deals
- Legislation to raise the minimum age of puppies and kittens imported into the UK from 15 weeks to six months
- Urgent action to tackle pet theft
- Compulsory cat microchipping and a single point of contact for dog and cat microchip databases
- A ban on the importation or sale of dogs with cropped ears
- Better equine identification to tackle abandonment and neglect
- A licensing and inspection framework for animal rescue, rehoming centres and sanctuaries
- A ban on keeping primates as pets and a comprehensive review of wild animals being kept as pets
- A complete review of wildlife legislation building on the recommendations provided by the Law Commission’s 2015 Wildlife Law report
- A ban on the sale and use of glue traps and snares which cause indiscriminate suffering
- A ban on trophy hunting imports and the sale and import of fur and foie gras
- The setting of ambitious targets to protect the 1,000 whales, dolphins and porpoises killed each year in UK fisheries due to entanglement in fishing gear.
Many of these key animal welfare issues are devolved - and the coalition of organisations is calling for action from the devolved administrations across the UK to act too to ensure standards are improved across the board.
The coalition stressed that to be successful, enforcement must be a statutory obligation under any legislation and furthermore the effectiveness of existing and new laws must be more robustly and regularly reviewed to ensure they are achieving their intentions.
Chris Burghes, CEO Blue Cross, said: “Previous legislation, such as equine identification in 2009, has not worked because they were neither mandatory for the local authority to enforce them nor were funds made available to them for enforcement. In recent years, councils have been asked to manage the licensing of animal businesses, prevent horse fly grazing and stop illegal puppy sales without an additional penny.
“Legislation is a glorified piece of paper without enforcement and a wasted opportunity if it doesn’t deliver its objectives. Local Government need additional resources to fulfil their statutory obligations. Effecting sustainable change is hard and we want all legislation, new and existing to work.”
Roly Owers, chief executive of World Horse Welfare, added: “Animal welfare has changed - we used to measure welfare in what animals were free from - freedom from hunger, thirst, pain etc. But this isn’t enough for good welfare. Now, our thinking has moved on and good welfare means giving an animal the opportunity to have positive enjoyment of life, their diet and environment, good health and ability to express their normal, natural behaviours. This must inform the way we see animals and, crucially, the way we legislate for their welfare.”
The coalition comprises 50 organisations including: Animal Aid, Battersea, Blue Cross, Born Free, Bransby Horses, Brooke Action for Working Horses and Donkeys, Cats Protection, CFSG, Compassion in World Farming, Dogs Trust, Horse Trust, HSI, IFAW, Kennel Club, League Against Cruel Sports, Mare and Foal Sanctuary, PDSA, Redwings, RSPCA, SPANA, Scottish SPCA, World Horse Welfare, World Animal Protection.
A full copy of the coalition’s Vision Paper can be read here.
Notes to Editors:
- Additional quotes from all the charities can be found on attached document
- For further information and interviews, please contact the appropriate charity’s press office
- You can download video here and images here.
- You can read the Vision Paper here.