Thank you to all those who contacted me about the use of cages for farmed animals.
I have long supported ending the use of cages on farms, while allowing farmers the time to plan and make necessary changes. In my view, these are outdated farming practices that cause animals distress and restrict their natural behaviour.
I do not believe suffering through the use of cages should be allowed to continue as it clearly causes fear and stress in animals and there are alternatives available. I think we must move on to loose-housing systems. However, in my view, we must see improvements being made in a sensible, measured way, working with industry and introducing measures it can cope with.
It is also vital we ensure any domestic production of animal products produced through higher welfare, cage-free standards, is not simply undercut and replaced by imports from countries still using lower-welfare cage systems.
The Government recently indicated its consultation on the future of cages for laying hens was almost ready, but that its consultation on pig farrowing crates was still being worked on. More recently, it has said it will continue with plans for consultations on the use of cages in farming systems when it considers the time right. I will follow developments on these matters closely.
More widely, I also supported measures contained within the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act which increase maximum sentences for the most severe acts of animal cruelty from six months to five years’ imprisonment. I am pleased that, after so much hard work, this legislation became law on 29 April 2021.
All animals deserve protection, whether they are on a farm, at home as a pet, at large in the wild or in the sea. Animals should not suffer unnecessary pain and degradation and we must continue to drive up standards and practice in line with the most recent advances and understanding. Strengthening our animal welfare laws is one of the Opposition’s top priorities.
I know that many people feel strongly about this issue and I can assure you I will continue to call for action to end the use of cages on farms.