Failing to pass welfare laws would be betrayal of animals and public, PM told

More than 30 animal welfare groups have written to Boris Johnson concerned the Government is deprioritising animal welfare legislation.

15 March 2022

Failing to deliver on promised laws to better protect livestock, wildlife and pets would be a “betrayal of animals and the British public”, the Government has been warned.

More than 30 animal welfare groups, including the RSPCA,  Humane Society International UK and Compassion in World Farming have written to the Prime Minister over concerns the Government is deprioritising the issue.

The groups want to see action on new laws ranging from banning live exports and imports of hunting trophies, fur and foie gras, to stopping the use of snares, phasing out crates for farm animals and tackling pet theft.

The letter comes after reports that the Government thinks animal protection is a “peripheral” concern and should be less of a priority, and that some ministers oppose plans to ban foie gras and fur imports.

There are also rumours the Government plans to shelve new laws banning the import of hunting trophies – something which it denies and says will bring forward as soon as parliamentary time allows.

The letter to the PM, which is also signed by organisations such as the Donkey Sanctuary, Cats Protection and the Dogs Trust, raises concerns over delays and slow progress on three key animal welfare bills, and urges the Government to make parliamentary time to pass them as soon as possible.

“To fail to do so would be a betrayal of animals, and of the British public,” it says.

They are the Animal Sentience Bill which recognises animals are sentient beings, able to feel pain and joy, the Animals Abroad Bill, including a ban on importing hunting trophies, and the Kept Animals Bill, which includes banning live exports, keeping primates as pets and tackling puppy smuggling.

The organisations point to a YouGov poll of 1,687 people, which found nearly nine in 10 felt the Government should either increase its level of action (63%), or maintain its current level of action (24%) on animal protection.

The survey found 89% of respondents who voted Conservative at the last election supported animal protection action by the Government being either maintained or increased, and just 2% supported decreased action.

Claire Bass, executive director of Humane Society International UK, said: “The notion that animal welfare doesn’t matter to voters simply does not chime with public opinion.

“The public want to see real progress for animals, including bans on imports of cruel fur and foie gras, so Number 10 will appear tone deaf if it waters down ambitions for animal welfare, or tries to quietly dispose of the promised Animals Abroad Bill.”

Sonul Badiani-Hamment, UK country director at Four Paws UK, said: “After years of Brexit stagnation, last year the Government brought forward an ambitious policy agenda with the animal welfare action plan.

“With promises of progressive legislation such as the fur, foie gras and trophy hunting import bans, the UK would finally be a global leader in animal welfare whilst delivering on the wishes of the overwhelming majority of the British public.

“To see them now backing away from their commitments in the face of political opposition by a small minority, is nothing short of cowardice.”

Emma Slawinski, director of advocacy and policy at the RSPCA, said: “The Government promised the public that they would ban live exports, stop the illegal puppy trade and deliver animal sentience when they put these into their 2019 manifesto.

“This new polling shows the public desire to get these delivered has not diminished and as we approach the first anniversary of the Government’s animal welfare action plan we need to see a new resolve from the Government and urge them to deliver on their promises.”

Tory MP Tracey Crouch is among those raising concerns over the delivery of a ban on imports of hunting trophies, tweeting: “I’m deeply concerned by rumours that the ban on the import of hunting trophies has been shelved.

“It is exceptionally cruel and 9/10 voters want a ban immediately.”

The Government would be “daft” to go back on its pledge, she said.

A Government spokesman said: “These claims are untrue, and we are firmly committed to delivering one of the toughest bans in the world on the import of hunting trophies from thousands of endangered and threatened species.

“This will be brought forward as soon as parliamentary time allows.”

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