The League Against Cruel Sports has welcomed a report by senior MPs published today which includes proposals to treat cruelty to wild animals in the same way as domestic or farm animals with an increase in prison sentences.

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (EFRA) report scrutinises and welcomes the 'important and worthwhile' steps in improving animal welfare included in the draft Animal Welfare (Sentencing and Recognition of Sentience) Bill published in December.

Measures included increasing the maximum prison sentence for animal cruelty from six months to five years in England and Wales and a requirement for the Government to have regard to the welfare needs of animals as sentient beings in formulating and implementing policy.

Eduardo Goncalves, CEO of the League Against Cruel Sports, said: "The recognition from the EFRA Committee that cruelty to wild animals is no different from cruelty to domestic or farm animals is long overdue, and will be very welcome. We're currently in a situation where someone can abuse their cat and get six months in prison - soon to be increased to a maximum five years - while the Master of a hunt can lead a pack of hounds to chase and illegally rip a fox apart and at most receive a small fine. This inequality is a smack in the face to any claims we have of being a nation of animal lovers. We strongly welcome the EFRA Committee report and urge the government to listen to their recommendations on sentencing, otherwise their aspirations to be an animal-friendly administration will look hollow.

"We are pleased that the EFRA Committee report recognises the League's comments regarding offences committed under the Hunting Act. Hunting is still frequently in the news, mainly because many suspect that animals are still being chased and killed illegally, often under the guise of 'trail' hunting. An increase in sentencing to the Government's suggested five years in prison for other animal cruelty offences would dissuade many from continuing to partake in their barbarous and unpopular activity.

"We understand the committee's concerns about the implications of including the recognition of animal sentience in future legislation. That issue does need to be fully explored, and DEFRA's consultation may provide enough information to offer more clarity, but we'd urge the government not to back down from what is a positive step forward. We would have concerns that separating out the sentience clause may lead to that issue being kicked into the long grass. Animals think and feel, that is a reality which we must address and understand if we are to be a truly compassionate society."


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Notes to Editors

  • For more information or interview requests please contact the League Against Cruel Sports Press Office on 01483 524250 (24hrs) or email [email protected]

  • The League Against Cruel Sports is Britain's leading charity that works to stop animals being persecuted, abused and killed for sport. The League was instrumental in helping bring about the landmark Hunting Act. We carry out investigations to expose law-breaking and cruelty to animals and campaign for stronger animal protection laws and penalties. We work to change attitudes and behaviour through education and manage sanctuaries to protect wildlife. Find out more about our work at www.league.org.uk. Registered charity in England and Wales (no.1095234) and Scotland (no.SC045533).