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Animal Welfare

Question for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

UIN 185291, tabled on 21 April 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps he is taking to improve the welfare of (a) domestic and (b) other animals in the UK.

Answered on

26 April 2021

The UK is a global leader in animal welfare. The Government has already taken significant steps to improve the welfare of domestic and others animals and we are currently considering the best legislative vehicle to bring forward a range of further animal welfare and animal-related measures to strengthen our position as a world leader in this field. This includes delivering our manifesto commitments when Parliamentary time allows.

We have modernised the regulation (licensing) of a range of animal activities including dog breeding, pet selling and animal boarding. These animal welfare regulations apply modern welfare standards and make it easier for local authorities to enforce.

We banned the commercial third-party sale of puppies and kittens which has been a significant milestone towards disrupting the unscrupulous trade that supports cruel puppy farming and smuggling. Through our national ‘Petfished’ campaign we continue to educate prospective pet owners on how to source pets responsibly, avoiding the common tricks and tactics used by deceitful sellers which may result in the purchase of a mistreated or unwell pet.

We launched a public consultation on introducing compulsory cat microchipping in England. Microchipping means lost cats can be identified and returned home rather than handed into rehoming charities as strays. It also means that injured cats can be quickly identified by vets and their owners can be informed and involved in their care.

We are supporting the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill which will increase the maximum custodial penalty for animal cruelty offences from six month to five years imprisonment. This increase will act as a strong deterrent to those that commit such appalling acts and provide one of the toughest sanctions in Europe. This legislation, coupled with the Animal Welfare (Service Animals) Act 2019, will also ensure that those who harm service animals are punished accordingly.

We have a strong track record in raising the bar for farm animal welfare standards — such as banning battery cages for laying hens, sow stalls and veal crates and introducing CCTV in all slaughterhouses in England. We will strengthen the regulatory baseline to ensure we maintain our high standards and look to raise them sustainably over time as new research and evidence emerges.

We are currently examining the evidence around the use of cages for farm animals.

We are delivering on our manifesto commitment and we hope to have legislation in place to end live animal exports for slaughter and fattening by the end of the year.

We have consulted on a wide range of proposals to improve animal welfare in transport and we will be publishing our response to the consultation and outlining how we will take reforms forward later this year. We are carefully considering potential improvements identified by the recent review of the regulations concerning the welfare of animals at the time of killing.

We are also co-designing an Animal Health and Welfare Pathway, which aims to promote the production of healthier, higher-welfare farm animals at a level beyond compliance with current regulations. The direction of the Pathway so far has been developed in active partnership with industry and a range of stakeholders through our co-design approach.

As part of the Pathway, we are developing publicly-funded incentives for English farmers to provide enhanced animal health and welfare beyond the regulatory baseline. These incentives will be for enhancements valued by the public but not sufficiently provided for by the market. Small and large grants will also be used to co-fund investment in measures that will increase animal health and welfare over the statutory baseline.

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