Last year’s Queen’s Speech included encouraging promises for animals by the Prime Minister and his Government, with the publication of the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs’ (DEFRA) Action Plan for Animal Welfare following shortly after.
We were optimistic that a new dawn beckoned for animals, both here in the UK and abroad, with several legislative proposals that would result in improved welfare of not only wild animals, but also farmed and companion animals too.
Here’s a reminder of some of those proposals:
Kept Animals Bill
- Ending the export of live animals for fattening & slaughter
- Tackling the illegal puppy trade
- Banning primates as pets
- Improving the standards of zoos
Animals Abroad Bill
- Banning the import of hunting trophies from endangered species
- Exploring action in the area of a fur import and sales ban
- Building an evidence base to ban the import and sale of foie gras from force-feeding
- Banning the advertising and sale of specific, unacceptable practices abroad e.g. elephant riding
Animal Welfare in Trade
- Finally implementing the Ivory Act of 2018, banning the trade in ivory in the UK
- Not compromising on animal welfare in trade negotiations
Farmed Animals and Food
- Reforming live transport regulations of farmed animals
- Introducing further reforms on cages for laying hens and farrowing crates for pigs
- Launching the Animal Health and Welfare Pathway that will replace the EU subsidy scheme
- Consulting on food labelling so that people can buy food aligned with their values
What has been achieved since last year?
Whilst we were happy to see the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Act receive Royal Assent before the last parliamentary session ended, we must remember that this was only a necessary achievement due to the Government’s own failure to carry over Article 13 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union when we left the EU.
Animal protection legislation also made strides with both The Glue Traps (Offences) Act and the Animals (Penalty Notices) Act receiving Royal Assent. Glue traps, crude devices that cause slow and painful deaths, will now be illegal to use in England by a member of the public, with a fine and/or up to 51 weeks in prison. Meanwhile, people who fail to properly care for their pets, zoo animals and livestock could now face new fixed-penalty fines of up to £5,000, including dog breeders who fail to microchip puppies before rehoming them.
What happened during the Queen’s Speech 2022?
Sadly, this year’s Queen’s Speech was devastatingly sparse on animal welfare commitments, with the Animals Abroad Bill markedly missing from the legislative agenda.
This Bill was set to provide a legislative vehicle to eradicate Great Britain’s complicity in a number of cruel practices overseas, including the introduction of bans on trophy hunting imports of endangered animals, the sale and import of fur and foie gras, and the advertisement and sale of cruel animal experiences overseas such as elephant rides.
Public opinion is clear; we need the Animals Abroad Bill. 86% of voters favour a trophy hunting ban1, 85% an advertisement ban2, and 72% a fur sale and import ban3. Seemingly, the opinions of the public fall on deaf ears.
Instead, we are left with empty promises and a meagre mention of lingering commitments to trophy hunting, tacked in to a 140-page document. The only partial victory for animals is that the carry over motion for the Kept Animals Bill, which started its journey through the Parliamentary process last session and is set to ban live export and tackle the illegal puppy trade amongst other issues, means that this Bill was included.
Farmed animals were dealt a double blow, with a distinct absence of any legislative plans pertaining to ending the use of cruel cages such as farrowing crates for pigs and enriched cages for egg-laying hens. To add insult to injury, the Speech also proposed a Bill that would permit the use of genetically edited farm animals, a practice that is currently banned in the UK on safety concerns.
Recent polling carried out in conjunction with our #DontBetrayAnimals partners shows that almost three quarters of UK voters (72%) want the Government to pass more laws to protect animals from cruelty4. In response, our Government neglects the very areas of animal welfare it set out to protect.
The lack of animal welfare legislation outlined in the Queen’s Speech is a betrayal to us, the British public, and animals, and reflects the cruel reality that the Government are deprioritising animal welfare.
Learn more about why these animal welfare issues are so important
In 2019, the Government consulted on a ban on the import of hunting trophies from endangered species which received over 44,000 responses showing clear public and conservation group support for tighter restrictions5.
Our Government and our Prime Minister have repeatedly promised this ban since the Queen’s Speech in 2019. In December 2021, Environment Secretary George Eustice even announced plans to extend the ban past the initial manifesto commitment, to encompass over 1,000 additional near-threatened species such as zebra and reindeer.
Since 2015, British hunters have brought home around 5,000 hunting trophies, including 996 from endangered species6. In 2019 alone, the UK saw the body parts of 15 African elephants, 34 baboons, 12 leopards, and 12 lions cross its borders.
In February 2022, polling revealed that 86% of voters demand an immediate ban on trophy hunting imports1. Staggeringly, among supporters of the Conservative Party, this figure rises to 92%, with just 1% of Conservative voters disagreeing.
With such an overwhelming majority supporting this ban, we believe the minor acknowledgement in this year’s Queen’s Speech to being ‘committed to legislation to ban the import of hunting trophies’ simply is not enough.
We will work hard to ensure this vital legislation becomes a reality rather than yet another empty promise.
It is not enough that fur farming has been illegal in the UK for more than 20 years, when 100 million animals continue to suffer and die for their fur each year, to be traded and sold as commodities including in this country. To achieve a truly #FurFreeBritain, the Government must end our complicity in this cruel practice and ban the sale and import of fur into the UK.
In 2021, you heard our call to arms with over 1 millions signatures handed into Number 10 Downing Street and countless supporters submitting responses to a Government consultation, expressing disbelief and disdain that this trade is still allowed to persist in the UK. Despite a staggering 30,000 responses being submitted with an overwhelming majority calling for a ban, the Government has still not published the responses.
The omission of fur in the Queen’s Speech is a heavy blow, but rest assured that we will continue to work with MPs and the Government to deliver the public’s wishes for a #FurFreeBritain.
End the Cage Age
In the UK, millions of farmed animals are languishing in small, overcrowded cages, unable to express their natural behaviours and suffering needlessly.
We have been calling on the Government to #EndtheCageAge for all farmed animals and eliminate these inhumane farming systems once and for all.
In 2021, alongside other animal welfare NGOs, we garnered over 100,000 signatures to a parliamentary e-petition asking the Government to follow in the footsteps of the European Commission and ban cages for all farmed animals by 2027.
We are now waiting for the Petition Committees to schedule a debate on this topic in the House of Commons. Despite promises in the Government’s APAW that consultations on cage keeping would be announced, a year on and we are still waiting for any progress in this area.
Force-fed Foie Gras
The UK banned the production of foie gras in 2006, acknowledging the cruel and barbaric methods used to produce it.
However, we continue to import around 220 tonnes of foie gras into the UK each year7, perpetuating the abuse of thousands of force-fed ducks and geese abroad.
Earlier this year, the Government threatened to drop the planned ban on the sale and import of force-fed foie gras due to internal opposition from cabinet ministers on the grounds of consumption being a ‘personal choice.’
However, recent polling shows that this ‘personal choice’ is not a popular opinion and 77% of citizens believe the Government should ban the import of animal products, such as fur and foie gras, where their production methods are already banned in the UK4. Over three-quarters of the nation stand by a ban on this trade, so why then has this critical issue been left off the parliamentary agenda?
Advertisement and Sale of Cruel Animal Experiences Abroad
Across the world, wild animals are suffering purely for the entertainment of tourists.
If you can hug, touch, ride, or take a photo with a wild animal, it has likely suffered from some form of cruelty to make this interaction possible. This is why we always ask people to Travel Kind.
Experiences such as elephant riding and swimming with dolphins are outdated and serve no purpose in the 21st century. Eco-tourism holidays that allow you to marvel at wild animals in their natural habitat are the only way to truly appreciate their beauty.
A ban on the sale of cruel animal experiences would ensure that British tourists can book a holiday safe in the knowledge that they are not contributing to the suffering of animals. With 90% of the British public supporting such a ban, which is also a 2019 election manifesto commitment by the Government, we are dismayed to see its lack of appearance in the Queen’s Speech.
We cannot stand idly by whilst our Government abandons promises and commitments made to both the public and animals. Especially when these broken promises result in millions of animals, both in the UK and abroad, continuing to suffer needlessly.
FOUR PAWS UK will keep fighting for animals, keep campaigning on your behalf and keep animal welfare firmly on the political agenda. We will do everything in our power to ensure the Government reprioritises animal welfare and delivers their promises to you and animals.
Ways you can help
It is critical that we keep campaigning and reminding the Government that the public care about the animal welfare issues that they are deprioritising, and this is where we urgently need your help. There are a number of ways you can help us keep the pressure on the Government to do the right thing.
Please sign our petitions and write to your MP on our Take Action webpage
Every signature and every voice can help make a difference to millions of voiceless animals!
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2 MRP Polling, STAE April 2022