Will Wales’s elections bring change for animals?

As the Senedd elections approach, the League’s sights are firmly on the animal suffering caused by the shooting industry. We’re asking all political parties and all candidates to commit to banning both snares and ’game’ bird cages. Whoever forms the next Welsh Government needs to know that these issues matter to people in Wales. Time and time again independent opinion polling of people in Wales shows clear and overwhelming support for a ban on both.

In February 2021, YouGov polling commissioned by the League found that a vast majority of people in Wales want higher welfare standards for ‘gamebirds’ and 72 per cent of those surveyed believe that cages used for breeding should be banned. The same polling found even higher support (78 per cent) for a ban on snares.

As we head towards the vote that will decide the Government of Wales for the next five years, it’s a good time to reflect on the past Senedd term. In this pre-election period and in the newly-elected Senedd, the League wants to build on our campaign successes to date in Wales.

In 2018 our joint campaign with Animal Aid achieved a landmark success in Wales with the decision of Natural Resources Wales (NRW) to end the practice of issuing licences for ‘game’ bird shooting on public land which they manage on behalf of Welsh Government.

But shooting and ‘game’ bird rearing have continued on land owned by other owners in Wales. Wales is also home to a large ‘game’ bird breeding industry with millions of pheasants and partridges estimated to be factory farmed here each year. The birds are bred in this way just to be killed for sport.

Cages are cruel and cause animals to suffer. The Welsh Government has previously indicated support for Wales to become a cage-free nation. In a recent petition to the Senedd we called for the Welsh Government to use its powers to ban the use of cages to produce ‘game’ birds.

The petitions process has engaged many thousands of our supporters and has brought the issue of ‘game’ bird cages in front of Members of the Senedd (MSs) and Welsh ministers once again. Consideration of our petition by the Senedd Petitions Committee is ongoing as I write. 

We have seen only a few years ago the positive impact that this petitions process can have. In 2016/2017 our supporters threw their weight behind a petition we submitted to the Senedd Petitions Committee calling for a ban on snares. To our delight, this triggered a detailed inquiry on the topic by the Senedd Environment Committee which concluded with some key recommendations being agreed, which were accepted by Welsh Government.

But at the League we knew there would be no quick fix to the problem and keeping snaring on the agenda of MSs and Welsh Government was crucial. We wrote to and met with the Environment Minister, Lesley Griffiths MS, worked with MSs to get questions raised in the Senedd chamber, and continued our dialogue with officials working on the issue.

Annual Welsh Government reviews looking at the use of snares continued to find that the Code of Practice on snaring wasn’t improving animal welfare and the case for Government action to tackle the situation was growing.

We gave a warm welcome to Welsh Government’s Agriculture White Paper, published for public consultation in the end of 2020. It includes proposals to allow ministers to regulate or ban snares. The white paper presents a once in a generation opportunity to press for a complete ban on snares.

May’s election will almost certainly bring in change in the political make-up of the Senedd and possibly in who governs Wales too. Whoever Wales’ future decision makers are, we need them to hear two messages loud and clear. First, that Wales has much to be proud of in delivering measures to improve animal welfare in recent years. And second, that the League and the people of Wales want Wales to become a beacon of compassion and respect towards animals, including those birds currently bred for, and harmed by, the shooting industry.

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