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Action Plan for Animal Welfare

Defra has published further details about its aims and ambitions for the future wellbeing of family pets and farm animals in the United Kingdom. The focal point of the new 'Action Plan for Animal Welfare' will be to improve the conservation of animals in this country and overseas.

Taking Action on Animal Welfare in the UK

The hashtag #ActionForAnimals sets the tone for the government’s new measures protecting the welfare of animals across five key areas:

  • Farm animals
  • International trade and advocacy
  • Pets and sporting animals
  • Sentience (aware of feelings) and enforcement
  • Wild animals

The result of a referendum question held on Thursday 23rd of June 2016 in the United Kingdom was to leave the European Union.

Doing so allows the UK to use new freedoms in ways not previously available. One of them is strengthening the standards of animal welfare by reinforcing its position as a champion in animal rights.

The key takeaways?

The Environment Secretary (Mr. George Eustice) launched the Action Plan for Animal Welfare on the 12th of May 2021.

It builds on world leading standards and recognises animals as sentient beings (aware of feelings and sensations) in British law.

Furthermore, it commits the United Kingdom to a range of new welfare measures that better protect family pets, wild animals, and livestock (farm animals regarded as assets).

Reforms in the Animal Welfare Action Plan

  • Being the first country to pass animal welfare laws reinforces the United Kingdom as a standout nation of animal lovers.
  • The programme delivers on a manifesto that bans the export of live animals for fattening and slaughter.
  • New animal welfare laws prohibit people from keeping primates as pets and addresses a worrying trend of puppy smuggling.
  • Improving the protection of animals abroad is one of the key aims of the programme. Hence, banning the importation of hunting trophies, along with the implementation of a robust ivory ban, will help to protect many of the world’s iconic species.

Note: A new Animal Sentience Bill (introduced to Parliament on the 13th of May 2021) places animal welfare at the centre of domestic policies.

Defra publishes new Action Plan for Animal Welfare in the United Kingdom.The #ActionForAnimals programme will improve pet welfare by:

Greater protection for wild animals will be reached by:

  • Bringing in new laws that make it illegal to keep a primate as a pet.
  • Introducing legislation to crack down on illegal hare coursing and to restrict the use of glue traps for pest control.
  • Providing extra funding for wildlife conservation projects at home as well as in relevant countries abroad.

Some of the ways the United Kingdom will help to protect vulnerable animals abroad include:

  • Banning:
    • Imports of hunting trophies from endangered animals.
    • Sales of ivory (e.g. through the Ivory Act) and selected specialty food products like foie gras (i.e. liver of a duck or goose).
    • UK-based adverts of unacceptable animal practices overseas (e.g. elephant rides).
  • Protecting iconic shark species (e.g. prohibiting the import and export of detached shark fins).

Major improvements in the general welfare of farmed animals will enter domestic policy making, by:

  • Bringing an end to the exportation of live animals for fattening and improving animal welfare at slaughterhouses.
  • Introducing stricter measures to improve the welfare of livestock during transport.
  • Empowering the police to protect farm animals from dogs that are dangerous or out of control.
  • Investing activities that use farrowing crates for pigs and cages for poultry.
  • Using future farming guidelines and policies to incentivise farmers into improving animal health and welfare.

This decade has already seen the government introduce a batch of measures to ensure the care and protection that animals deserve. They include:

  • Banning battery cages for laying hens.
  • Increasing the maximum jail sentence for animal abuse.
  • Introducing compulsory CCTV in slaughter houses.

Animals (Penalty Notices) Bill

An extended crackdown on the perpetrators of offences committed against animals means they could be on the wrong end of a £5,000 fine.

As such, new legislation signals tougher prison sentences for animal cruelty (e.g. for the most severe incidents of animal health and welfare offences).

Thus, authorities can issue on-the-spot fines as penalties for individuals as well as anyone who ‘cruelly’ mistreats pets, animal livestock, or zoo animals.

Note: The introduction of the Glue Traps (Offences) Bill aims to crack down on inhumane traps that cause a lot of suffering and a slow painful death (e.g. glue traps).

Defra Publishes New Action Plan for Animal Welfare in the UK and Overseas