Time to get serious about animal welfare

September 01 2021
Time to get serious about animal welfare

Bristol East MP Kerry McCarthy writes for the Fishponds Voice

ANIMAL welfare is something deeply important to people across the UK.

I know, from years of passionate campaigning from constituents, that Bristol is no exception to this. Of course, people are the primary focus of my work as an MP – that should go without saying – but in a civilised, compassionate society we define ourselves by how we treat animals too.

Unfortunately, and despite its rhetoric, the Government doesn’t seem to share these concerns.

The vast majority of the public supports Labour’s ban on fox-hunting, but that law now needs tightening, so that there are no loopholes for bloodsports enthusiasts to exploit.

I’ve also long campaigned for an end to driven grouse-shooting, which not only means the death of millions of birds every year but is also extremely environmentally damaging.

I was shocked to read earlier this month that Home Office Ministers have “reconsidered” their policy on animal testing for cosmetic products – which was rightly banned in 1998 by the Labour Government, and has since been banned across the EU too. Campaigners have warned that this could now open the door to widespread use of entirely unnecessary – not to say cruel – animal testing for cosmetic products.

Labour is committed to the '3 Rs' – the reduction, refinement, and replacement of testing on animals. Scientists are discovering humane alternatives all the time, and we certainly shouldn’t be turning the clock back on the progress we have made.

I would like to be able to say that this is an isolated incident, but unfortunately this is a part of a trend of regressive Government decisions and repeated delays to key animal welfare legislation.

We are still waiting for action to stamp out ivory imports to the UK, two and a half years after Parliament passed the Ivory Act. According to WWF, up to 53,130 African elephants have been poached and killed for their tusks since the act was passed in 2018, yet the Government is yet to use the powers granted to it to prevent ivory trading.

We are also still waiting for the Government to bring forward its plans for an Animal Sentience Bill, which would formally recognise the sentience of animals and recognise their ability to feel pain. This legislation has been repeatedly promised since 2017, and pledged in two Queen’s Speeches, yet the Bill still hasn’t been published – in yet another example of the Government’s tough talk on animal welfare but no action to back this up.

I hope when Parliament returns from the summer recess we will finally start to see progress on some of these areas. We’ve waited long enough!