Government steps back from Animal Welfare pledges

Every year, the King’s Speech provides the government with an opportunity to set out its priorities and ambitions for the year ahead. With this week’s event almost certainly being the last King’s Speech before the next general election, many were eager to hear what the government intends to accomplish in the final year of this Parliament. For those of us, of which there are many, who advocate for greater animal welfare protections, we will have been left wondering why the government seems to have turned its back on wildlife and animals in general.

Earlier this week, disappointingly, the government announced its latest programme for government read out by King Charles III without once mentioning animals. Even the extended documents released after the speech indicated that the government intends to pass just one bill to improve animal welfare protections, a proposed ban on the live export of animals that has been long promised and so far unfulfilled.

Further announcements may follow in the coming weeks and months but for now at least, the government’s offer to animal advocates remains severely lacking. We continue to wait for a call for evidence on snaring, first promised in 2021, countless measures in the Kept Animals Bill, dropped earlier this year and action to end the smokescreen of trail hunting, that the government continues to bury their heads in the sand about. Even manifesto commitments such as outlawing trophy hunting imports and a ban on the keeping of primates as pets appear to have dropped off the agenda.

While the King’s Speech and associated documents do not incorporate everything a government will do, and rarely do governments achieve everything they set out to do, the King’s Speech is a clear indication of the government's priorities. It is difficult to come to any conclusion but one that this government has little interest in better protecting animals.

Animal Charity

That is not to say that there have not been meaningful improvements to the lives of animals since 2019. The government will fight the next election with the not unsubstantial achievements of increasing maximum sentences for animal cruelty offences, passing the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Act and the recently passed Private Members Bill, the Animals (Low-Welfare Activities Abroad) Act. Each of these provides greater protections to animals than were previously afforded to them.

For a government that fought the last election with a broadly positive animal welfare plan and one that built upon it in the earlier months and years of its tenure, it is frustrating and disappointing for so much of that promise to fail to materialise.

The League will continue to work with all parties to achieve vital improvements that our animals need. We will continue to be the voice of animals persecuted in the name of ‘sport’, to call upon the UK Parliament to follow the lead of the Welsh Parliament in banning snares, and of course, to urge MPs on all sides to recognise the need to end the smokescreen of trail hunting.

With the next election not far away, it’s more important than ever that politicians hear about the issues that matter to you. We need you to help us keep hunting with dogs high on the agenda – you can do so by writing to your MP today.

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