Today the UK Government launched its Action for Animals Plan. The plan sets out the Government’s commitments to protect companion, wild and farmed animals and addresses animal welfare issues not just within the UK, but also internationally in order to “set a clear global sense of direction”.
In this blog we set out some key points from the UK Government’s animal welfare commitments as discussed in their Action for Animals Plan. The plan is rather extensive so our chosen focus is those actions that OneKind has recently been active in campaigning for in the UK and Scotland.
“This is not the last word on animal welfare. The way we treat animals reflects our values and the kind of people we are. We will continue to raise the bar, and we intend to take the rest of the world with us.” – The Rt Hon George Eustice MP
“At the heart of our reform programme is our commitment to recognise in law the sentience of animals.
The UK Government will enshrine recognition of animal sentience into law. This is very welcome news for ourselves and the many other animal welfare organisations who campaigned for animal sentience to be recognised by the UK Government following Brexit. This legislation will impose an important duty on government to take animal welfare into consideration in policy decisions. DEFRA has also commissioned research into the sentience of decapod crustaceans and cephalopods and will consider including these animals under the sentience legislation. We were pleased to have participated in a stakeholder workshop and survey related to this research.
A ban on the live export of animals for fattening or slaughter
“…we will legislate to end the export of live animals for fattening and slaughter.”
The UK Government will legislate to end the export of live animals for fattening and slaughter. Live export is a serious animal welfare problem, on a global scale, and so we are pleased that the UK Government is committed to a ban. We responded to both the UK Government and Scottish Government’s consultations on the welfare of animals during transport and were strong on our position that a ban is absolutely necessary.
Further reforms for farrowing crates and cages for laying hens
“…we are currently considering the case for introducing further reforms, on areas such as the use of farrowing crates for pigs and cages for laying hens.”
We have long-campaigned for better conditions for farmed animals and in 2018 joined Compassion in World Farming’s #EndTheCageAge movement and supported the End the Cage Age European Citizens’ Initiative alongside 170 other animal welfare organisations and citizens. The Initiative gained over 1.6 million signatures, making it the 3rd ECI with the highest signature count.
Last month, we also released a report, “Emotional beings- Why farmed animal welfare matters in a Good Food Nation” to raise awareness of farmed animals as sentient individuals, as opposed to “units of production”
“…we will consult on how food labelling can be reformed making it easier for consumers to purchase food that aligns with their values.”
We have advocated for mandatory method of production labelling for all ‘products’ derived from animals. Such labelling would detail the welfare provenance of the ‘product’ by describing the conditions the animal was raised in. Labelling of eggs is a current UK example. Consumers may feel that higher welfare standards are important to them, but choosing higher welfare ‘products’ is very difficult due to lack of welfare labelling.
“…prohibiting the importation and non-commercial movement of dogs into Great Britain that have been subject to low welfare practices, such as ear cropping or tail docking, in line with our domestic legislation on these practices.”
We support the UK Government’s plants to prohibit importation of dogs that have been subject to poor welfare practices, such as ear cropping or tail docking. It should be noted that the Scottish Government currently has only a partial tail docking ‘ban’, with the ban being weakened 4 years ago when an exemption for working dogs was introduced into the legislation. OneKind was strongly opposed to this decision, as was the veterinary community and Scottish public, and we continue to push for the reintroduction of an outright ban.
Education on the responsible sourcing of companion animals & puppy trafficking
“…continue our initiatives to educate the public on how to source dogs and cats responsibly.”
“We committed to cracking down on puppy smuggling in our manifesto. We will legislate to reduce the number of pet dogs, cats and ferrets that can be moved under the pet travel rules which apply to non-commercial movements.”
Like many others, we have been very concerned by the Scottish SPCA reports of an increase in illegal puppy sales and trading during the pandemic. We have long campaigned for stronger welfare standards for the pet trade and have included several asks to address the major risks in our 2021 manifesto. In 2017, we released the report Scotland’s Puppy Profiteers to expose puppy profiteering in Scotland and put forward a progressive legislative agenda to tackle it.
Further protection for racing greyhounds
“…consider further protections for racing greyhounds, including further steps to raise welfare standards at trainers’ kennels.”
OneKind is opposed to greyhound racing and we have been working alongside anti-greyhound racing groups, such as the Alliance Against Greyhound Racing (AAGR), to call for a complete ban on this cruel ‘sport’. The AAGR’s recent Westminster petition to ban greyhound racing gathered more than 100,000 signatures, which means the UK Parliament will now need to consider the petition for debate. We are disappointed that despite public support for a ban, the UK Government is only considering ‘further protections’.
“…commit to maintaining high standards of protection where procedures are undertaken on live animals for scientific or educational purposes.”
The UK Government’s commitment to “maintaining high standards” is simply not enough. In 2019 in Great Britain, 3.4 million scientific procedures were carried out. 18,000 of them were on ‘specially protected’ species: dogs, cats, horses and primates. Despite a pledge from the UK Government ten years ago to reduce animal testing, there has been no sustained or significant reduction. The UK Government must take action to fully replace animal testing with alternatives. Animal testing in unethical and unreliable and thus can no longer be justified.
A ban on primates as pets
“We will legislate to prohibit primates as pets and potentially other animals.”
While we welcome the UK Government’s commitment to prohibit primates as pets, we urge them to prohibit the keeping of all wild animals as pets. OneKind is an advocate of a Positive Lists of species that are suitable to keep as pets. This measure has been successfully adopted in several EU countries and provides a way to ensure that only animals whose needs can be met in a domestic environment are kept as pets.
Restrict the use of glue traps as a means of pest control
“We will also look to restrict the use of glue traps as a means of pest control to help make sure rodents are despatched in a humane manner. Glue traps can cause immense suffering to rodents and other animals that inadvertently fall victim to their use.”
While we welcome the UK Government considering the welfare issues of glue traps, we’re are concerned that they have only stated that they will ‘restrict’ the use of the traps. Glue traps are extremely cruel and inflict considerable mental and physical suffering on the animals trapped in them. These traps can also lead to an unnecessarily prolonged death.
Glue traps are also indiscriminate and just last month a fox in Edinburgh had to be rescued from a glue trap after becoming trapped overnight. It took rescuers hours to free him from the glue trap.
The Scottish Government is considering a ban on sale of glue traps to the public. The Scottish Animal Welfare Commission has recommended banning them completely due to the immense suffering they cause, and OneKind and many others support this view.
A call for evidence on the use of snares
“launch a call for evidence on the use of snares… The government considers it timely to open this call for evidence to make sure it has the very latest understanding on this issue.”
We have long campaigned for a ban on the sale, use and manufacture of snares in Scotland, and believe that the animal suffering caused by snares is undeniable and no more evidence is needed for both the UK and Scottish governments to ban them. The legislation around snaring will be reviewed this year by NatureScot. The last review, disappointingly, did not consider the option of an outright ban, but we will continue to make the case for it.
Since 2011, we have been appealing for reports about snares found by members of the public through its website www.snarewatch.org. SnareWatch is a reporting tool, where members of the public in the UK can report snare sightings and snaring incidents and get advice on how to report any illegal incidents.
OneKind recently joined with 49 other animal welfare organisations to produce the #ActNowForAnimals report, which makes recommendations to the UK Government in the next Parliamentary session. We look forward to working together to introduce legislation to protect the UK’s animals. You can read the #ActNotForAnimals report here.