Eduardo Gonçalves, CEO of animal welfare campaigners League Against Cruel Sports reacted to EFRA’s report into animal welfare, saying: “This report sends conflicting signals.

“We welcome EFRA Committee’s call for an increase in sentencing to 5 years for animal cruelty. Animal welfare crimes include dog fighting, which everyone recognises is appalling but simply isn’t punished strongly enough. Dog fighters in Northern Ireland now face up to five years in jail so the rest of the UK is lagging behind badly. The punishment for dog fighting could never truly fit the crime, but increasing the maximum penalty would be a good start.

“But with the CPS already stretched, and in the face of a threat to the RSPCA’s ability to carry out its own prosecutions, there’s no indication on how taking on extra caseloads would be resourced. After all, there’s little point in increasing sentencing if there aren’t the resources – or specialist knowledge - to prosecute the case. The RSPCA has a proud record when it comes to animal welfare, and to see it come under such a politicised attack is deeply disappointing.

“We need to ensure our animal welfare laws can be enforced, but enforcement isn’t limited to prosecutions. Currently, where courts can hand out bans on keeping animals to convicted abusers, but because there’s no register, convicted offenders are walking out of the courtroom and getting other animals to abuse.

“Therefore we welcome the recommendation that the Government considers the potential for a register of animal abusers, something that we have been calling for for some time”.