After years of campaigning, the announcement of a ban on live exports is a significant moment in the history of the UK animal welfare movement. The Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Bill will prevent the horrendous shipments of young calves and other animals ever happening again. Journeys of un-weaned calves from GB for fattening in Spain were found to last on average 60 hours and often even longer, during which they suffered injury, stress and exhaustion. We hope that the lead being taken by the UK on this will be mirrored in the EU where discussions around the banning of live exports are also being held.
However, it was disappointing not to see plans announced to tackle puppy smuggling, a promise that has been repeatedly made by the Government to our nation of animal lovers. Measures previously included in the discarded Kept Animals Bill, such as those to increase the minimum age of imported puppies and restrict the import of pregnant dogs, were notably missing, as was any mention of banning fur sales and the use of cages and crates in farming.
Perhaps the biggest omission of all was any plan to deal with the repeated commitment to ban hunting trophies from being imported into the UK. Supported by MPs across parties, this commitment was contained in the 2019 Conservative Party election manifesto, in both the October and December 2019 Queens speech, and the one in 2021 as well. So, after Henry Smith MP’s Private Members Bill was derailed by 11 backbench members of the House of Lords only weeks ago, where was it today? If the Government are looking to rely on the fragile Private Members Bill process to get the ban done instead, this is clearly a palm-off given that this route has already proven to be so difficult and unreliable in the recent past.
Animal welfare is an issue that unites us across humanity, and it is therefore no surprise that Constituency-level (MRP) polling carried out in September 2023 showed that more than two-thirds of the British public feel that a political party announcing plans to 'pass more laws designed to improve animal welfare and protect animals from cruelty' would have the right priorities. In this final, and short, parliamentary session ahead of the next general election, all eyes will be on what is and what is not delivered by the Government.
If the Government acts fast, with power and certainty, there is time for them to deliver on their promise to ban live exports. On the numerous other neglected animal welfare issues, we will keep working with MPs to help them prioritise these policies and secure the passage of commitments through the Private Members Bill process.
#AnimalsMatter, always; and we will not stop campaigning until that is reflected in the laws and policies of our society that include them too.