I’m always trying to speak out for animals and animal welfare and I’m really proud that Labour is the party of animal welfare. From bringing forward the landmark Hunting Act to protecting the treatment of domestic animals under the Animal Welfare Act, Labour has always placed the welfare of animals high on the policy agenda.
We must also always fight for our hard won achievements and not let them be reversed. Just last year the Prime Minister Theresa May openly declared her support for fox hunting and to bring back a free vote on the matter. Last year almost 20,000 badgers were killed across England in the largest destruction of a protected species in living memory, whilst the most recent RSPB Birdcrime Report showed that for the first time in thirty years, not one prosecution took place for raptor persecution.
I want political parties to be ambitious when it comes to animal welfare and I support Labours plans for an Animal Welfare Commissioner who would ensure that government policy across Whitehall is continually informed and underpinned by the latest scientific evidence on animal sentience and best practice in animal welfare. Our vision is one where no animal is made to suffer unnecessary pain and degradation and where we continue to drive up standards and practice in line with the most recent advances and understanding.
Strengthening animal welfare in UK law
Labour supports the full transposition of protections for animals from EU to UK law. We would seek to build upon existing standards to ensure that the law on animal welfare continues to reflect the latest scientific evidence in relation to animal sentience and how animals experience pain and suffering.
• Enshrine the principle of animal sentience in law, covering all policy areas to prevent practices that expose animals to cruel and degrading treatment.
• Expand the definition of animal to include decapod crustaceans (for example lobsters) and cephalopods (for example squid) in line with other countries including Norway, New Zealand and Switzerland.
• Increase maximum sentences for those convicted of animal cruelty.
• Higher animal welfare standards both in the mandatory and ‘best practice’ levels of Government Buying Standards.
Labour is committed to promoting the highest level of care for domestic animals and animals in captivity. While organisations such as the PDSA provide veterinary assistance to those on income support, too often pet care is unaffordable and inaccessible to those on low incomes. Recognising that currently for the majority of people under 30, buying a home is sadly less and less of an affordable option, Labour would seek to improve the rights of renters to own pets that do not cause a nuisance. We will explore further measures to tackle puppy smuggling, seek to drive up animal welfare standards in zoos and ban the use of shock collars.
• Prohibit the third party sale of puppies. All puppies will need to be sold with their mother on site.
• Take increased measures to tackle puppy smuggling
◦ Reintroduction of rabies testing before entry into the UK
◦ Increase post rabies test period to three months
◦ Introduce a microchip database and record microchip numbers upon entry
• Ban the use of animal shock collars, including sale and importation.
• Improve accessibility to vets for those on low incomes/receiving financial support, working with organisations to explore how access to affordable vet care can be expanded.
• Require motorists to report accidents where an animal has been injured.
• Expand mandatory microchipping to cats.
• Phase in restrictions on pet primates.
• Raise the penalty for dog-fighting to three years in line with Northern Ireland.
• Consult with landlords and tenants on the ability for tenants to keep pets as default unless there is evidence that the animal is causing a nuisance.
• Work with care home providers and advocate groups to explore the potential for elderly and disabled people who move into care homes to be able to keep their pets.
• Establish a full-time, independent zoo inspectorate to draw up revised standards of animal welfare in the UK’s zoos to ensure consistency in licensing and inspection.