Thank you to all those who contacted me about animal welfare.
I am extremely disappointed that the Government has dropped the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill. Over 18 months had passed since it was last scrutinised by Parliament and reassurances were that it would be returned for further debate. The Government now says it will take forward the Bill’s contents as single-issue pieces of legislation, which will likely further delay protections from becoming law.
This decision is not what the public, our dedicated animal welfare charities or I want. It represents a profound setback for animal welfare in the UK, and it is innocent animals who will suffer the consequences.
Strengthening our animal welfare laws is a priority for the Opposition and I will always support action to achieve the strongest possible animal welfare policies, as I recently raised in the House of Commons. All animals deserve protection and I believe it is wrong to promise tougher legislation if promises are then not seen through.
As you know, the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill would have introduced a licensing system for keeping primates as pets, banned the live export of animals for fattening and slaughter, and allowed the Government to make regulations about the importation of cats, dogs and ferrets into Great Britain.
It is inhumane and wrong to keep primates as pets. The Government has said it will now consult on the standards for primate-keeping. The Opposition tabled an amendment at Committee Stage to introduce a full ban on keeping primates as pets, but disappointingly the Government voted this down.
I have long supported measures to ban live exports of animals for slaughter and fattening. I share welfare concerns about what many of those animals experience in being transported for long periods of time.
We also need proper action on the issue of puppy smuggling. The Bill introduces a limit of five puppies and kittens per vehicle, but I think it should be three. Furthermore, I support increasing the minimum import age for puppies to six months and increased maximum penalties for those who illegally import dogs.