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Government launches first Action Plan for animal welfare

In the Queen’s Speech (Tuesday 11 May 2021), the government launched its first Action Plan for animal welfare, promising ‘the highest standards of animal welfare’ in the UK.

The new pledges ranged from improving welfare standards in zoos to mandatory microchipping for cats. The measures will be covered by three bills introduced over the next year.

In the proposals, the government said it wanted to be a ‘global leader’ on animal welfare and set ‘high standards for others across the world to follow.’

In the government’s Action Plan, it commits to:

  • Recognising animal sentience – the capacity of animals to have feelings, including pain and suffering – in law through the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill
  • Ending the export of live animals for fattening and slaughter and taking ‘further steps’ to limit foie gras trade
  • Bringing in ‘more effective powers’ to tackle livestock worrying as part of its Kept Animals Bill, and using the bill to stop people keeping primates as pets, improving standards in zoos and ‘cracking down’ on puppy smuggling
  • Bringing in mandatory cat microchipping and improving the current databases.

The government also proposed banning the import of hunting trophies – as well as stopping advertising for the trips to hunt them – in its Animals Abroad Bill and to implement the Ivory Act it first promised in 2017, under Theresa May.

Commenting on the pledges, FRAME Education and Outreach Manager Amy Beale said: “It is great to see that animal welfare is high on the government’s agenda and has been addressed in the Queen’s Speech. Historically, the UK has been a leader in the field of animal welfare and Brexit provides the UK government with a unique opportunity to continually improve and positively influence global standards of animal welfare, set an example to other countries and support science, innovation and information sharing.

“In the EU Withdrawal Act 2018, the government did not include a principle within Article 13 of the Lisbon Treaty which recognises animals as sentient beings and promised to address this more widely across UK legislation It is good to see that this promise has been upheld with the introduction of the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill, which is set to accept that vertebrate animals experience feelings and have the capacity to suffer. This recognition is crucial in providing protection to animals, particularly as our understanding of sentience evolves.

“We are looking forward to hearing more about the three bills that are set to be introduced next year and will examine these closely to assess whether there is potential to impact animal research legislation and improve the lives of laboratory animals moving forward.”

To find out more about the Action Plan, click here.

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