A new set of reforms introduced through a series of bills will formally recognise animals as sentient beings in UK law for the first time, as the government sets out a suite of animal welfare measures, including halting most live animal exports and banning the import of hunting trophies.
The new reforms, which include the Animal Sentience Bill, cover farm animals and pets in the UK, and include protections for animals abroad, through bans on ivory and shark fins, and a potential ban on foie gras.
The Action Plan for Animal Welfare will also introduce new measures for pets, including cracking down on pet theft, something which has skyrocketed in recent months, as 3.2 million households in the UK acquired a pet during the coronavirus lockdown. Puppy smuggling and making cat microchipping mandatory will also be addressed, and controversial e-collars that deliver an electric shock to train pets will be banned.
The UK government plans to protect wildlife by making it illegal to keep primates as pets, supporting restrictions of glue traps, cracking down on illegal hare courses, and funding wildlife conservation projects both in the UK and abroad.
Farmers will be given incentives to improve animal health and welfare through the future farm subsidy regime and the use of cages for poultry and farrowing crates for pigs will be examined.
The government says the measures will put animal welfare at the very heart of policymaking.
“We are a nation of animal lovers and were the first country in the world to pass animal welfare laws. Our action plan for animal welfare will deliver on our manifesto commitment to ban the export of live animal exports for slaughter and fattening, prohibit keeping primates as pets, and bring in new laws to tackle puppy smuggling. As an independent nation, we are now able to go further than ever to build on our excellent track record,” says George Eustice, UK Environment Secretary.
“Delivering on the plan will require understanding and real commitment from across Whitehall. Respect for animal welfare is not only the right thing to do for animals, it will also play a critical role in tackling global environmental and public health challenges such as climate change, antibiotic resistance, and pandemic prevention.”
– Claire Bass, executive director of Humane Society International/UK