Since being elected, I have been actively working with local people to improve animal welfare. With my Conservative MP colleagues, we have taken action to ban the plastic microbeads which do so much damage to marine wildlife and new laws come into force in January. We will make CCTV mandatory in abattoirs to ensure animals are not abused or mistreated. We are banning the trade in ivory which puts the lives of African elephants in danger. And we will legislate to increase the sentence for the worst acts of animal cruelty to five years imprisonment. That will ensure the sanctions for cruelty towards animals are as strong here as anywhere in the world.
And, as we leave the EU, new opportunities arise to further improve animal welfare. Having long campaigned against exporting live animals for slaughter, I am pleased the Government will take action to restrict and, if possible, end this trade. Also ensuring that food imports meet the highest welfare standards. And we will take action to deal with puppy farming and the cruel trade in pets reared in unacceptable conditions.
We will also legislate to ensure that the principle that animals are sentient beings, capable of feeling pain and pleasure, is embedded more clearly than ever before in UK law. Some have been arguing that we must vote to amend the EU Withdrawal Bill to uphold this principle and a Labour amendment has been laid for debate next Tuesday which seeks to amend the bill accordingly.
Due to faulty drafting, this amendment would mean animal sentience was only recognised in law for the next 2 years and would only apply to Ministerial decisions made in that period. Conservatives believe animals are sentient for life not just for the next two years, so our legislation will ensure this happens.
First published in the West Briton
I welcome the hundreds of emails, letters and calls I receive from constituents every week on a wide range of issues. By far and away the most popular topic is animal welfare. Based on my experience as your local MP, there is no doubt that we are a nation of animal lovers.
I have corresponded with many constituents about the use of CCTV in English slaughterhouses. So I was delighted last week to welcome new plans to make CCTV mandatory in all slaughterhouses in England. The proposals detailed in the six week consultation will make it necessary for slaughterhouses to record all areas where live animals are present.
Authorised officers such as official veterinary surgeons would have unrestricted access to footage, reassuring consumers that high welfare standards are being effectively enforced. If breaches are found, a slaughterhouse can be given a welfare enforcement notice, have its licence suspended or revoked, or be referred for a criminal investigation.
The Food Standards Agency supports the introduction of mandatory CCTV as a tool to improve both the effectiveness and the efficiency of their oversight and enforcement activity. I expect the Government’s proposals to be supported by a wide range of organisations and the British Veterinary Association. These proposals should increase public confidence in the welfare standards of Great British food and I would expect the farming and food industry to support them.
The Government is also consulting on plans to raise welfare standards for farm animals and domestic pets by modernising statutory animal welfare codes to reflect enhancements in medicines, technology and the latest research and advice from vets. The codes will remain enshrined in law and the first to be updated will cover chickens bred for meat.
These proposals fulfil our manifesto commitment and demonstrate this Government’s strong commitment to animal welfare.