Strengthening animal welfare is a key priority for this Conservative Government

Monday 28th May 2018




Lord John Gardiner, Minister for Animal Welfare

The UK is a nation of animal lovers so it is only right that we have some of the highest welfare standards in the world. Our recent record, raising the bar on standards, speaks for itself.

Both the Prime Minister and the Environment Secretary have been absolute in the government’s commitment to make animal welfare one of our key priorities. From announcing plans to increase maximum prison sentences for animal abusers from six months to five years, to making CCTV mandatory in all slaughterhouses in England, we are taking significant steps to reaffirm our position as a global leader on this issue, and I am incredibly proud to be part of DEFRA during a time when this important cause is at the very heart of what we are doing.

During the last year, we have introduced a series of measures which will make a real difference to the lives of our much loved animals.

Last September, we announced our plans to increase maximum prison sentences tenfold, making sure our courts have the power to hand down some of the strongest punishments in the world to those who commit the most heinous acts of animal cruelty. Just before last Christmas, the Prime Minister announced reforms to pet licensing that will, among other things, make it illegal to sell puppies younger than eight weeks old and ensure puppy sales are completed in the presence of the new owner, with their mothers – preventing online sales where prospective buyers have not seen the animal first.

We also want to make sure that farm animals are treated with the care and respect they deserve. That is why we have announced plans to make CCTV mandatory in all slaughterhouses in England and why we continue to introduce species-specific welfare codes which reflect the very latest veterinary advice. We have already launched an updated code for meat, chickens and, following public consultations, will soon issue new codes for laying hens and pigs.

But there is still much to do and, as we leave the European Union, we will shape future animal welfare policy to ensure the highest standards in every area, from household pets to farming.

We have already confirmed that animals will be explicitly recognised as sentient beings in domestic law, meaning that animals will definitely not have fewer protections once we leave the EU, but I want to make sure that we go further.

While in the EU, we have often led by example on animal welfare. We banned sow stalls in 1999, leading the way for the EU-wide ban which followed in 2013. In 1990, we stopped the cruel practice of keeping calves in close-confinement crates, and, in 2007, we were a driving force behind the EU ban on veal crates. The UK was also a key player in negotiating for improved standards on rules for laying hens, leading to the EU-wide ban on eggs from battery-farmed hens in 2012.

But our strong track record on animal welfare stretches back centuries, long before we became members of the EU. We were the first country in the world to legislate to protect animals, passing an Act to prevent the cruel and improper treatment of cattle in 1822, and there is much more we can achieve once we leave.

Brexit provides an opportunity to review the way pet travel movements into the UK are regulated to crack down on abuses of the current system; for example, by raising the minimum age of incoming puppies to six months, whilst retaining the benefits of being able to easily take your pet on holiday, which thousands of owners currently enjoy.

Outside of the EU, we can also take action to control exports of live farm animals for slaughter.

We will continue to enhance our reputation as a world-leader on animal welfare, and I can assure you that we will make a Green Brexit work not just for the people of the UK but for the animals we love and cherish, too.

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