Thank you for contacting me about animal welfare.
I cannot comment in advance on the contents of my Party's manifesto for the next General Election or commit the Party in advance to specific content, not least because I am retiring as an MP at that election. That said, the Conservative Party is fully committed to animal welfare and that is shown by its record in office.
I would like to assure you that the Government is committed to upholding our world-leading animal welfare standards and to delivering a series of ambitious reforms, as outlined in the Action Plan for Animal Welfare.
The Animal Welfare (Sentience) Act 2022 enshrines in domestic law the recognition that animals are sentient and creates an expert Animal Sentience Committee, which will advise the Government on how policy decisions should take account of animal welfare. In addition, the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act introduced tougher sentences for animal cruelty, increasing maximum sentences. The Ivory Act came into force in 2022 and has recently been extended to cover five more endangered species.
The Kept Animals Bill, introduced in June 2021, was designed to implement several of the Government’s ambitions for animal welfare. This included banning the live exports of animals, seeking to prevent pet theft, and new measures to tackle livestock worrying. I am aware that the Bill’s multi-issue nature means that there has been considerable scope-creep, and the Bill risks being extended far beyond the original commitments in the Conservative Manifesto that I was elected on, as well as and the Action Plan for Animal Welfare. Therefore, the Government will now be taking forward measures in the Kept Animals Bill individually during the remainder of the Parliament. I am assured that the Government remains fully committed to delivering its manifesto commitments on animal welfare.
I appreciate the strength of feeling around this issue. Around a million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction and the abundance, diversity and connectivity of species is declining faster than at any time in human history. Ministers take the welfare of all animals extremely seriously and are committed to strengthening and supporting long-term conservation of animals both internationally and at home.
In 2019, the Government held a consultation on the scale and impact of the import and export of hunting trophies. Over 44,000 responses to the call for evidence and consultation were received and 85 per cent of responses were in favour of further action. The Government’s response to the consultation set out plans to ban imports of hunting trophies from thousands of endangered and threatened species.
The Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill was introduced to Parliament in June 2022 as a Private Member’s Bill to ban the import of hunting trophies from around 6,000 species, including lions, elephants, rhinos, and polar bears. My ministerial colleagues and I were disappointed that despite the overwhelming support from MPs and the public, this Bill failed to progress through Committee stage in the House of Lords in the last parliamentary session. I understand that accepting the amendments proposed by Peers would have undermined the Government’s important commitment in this area.
On the campaign in relation to the King’s Speech and trophy hunting, while I have noted your comments about this issue, I would like to assure you that the Government remains committed to delivering on the manifesto pledge to ban the import of hunting trophies, and Ministers will continue to explore ways to bring this forward. I will continue to monitor this closely.
Finally, I am aware that the Government supports a series of Private Members’ Bills which will deliver important reforms on animal welfare. In addition to the Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill these include the Shark Fins Bill, which will ban the import and export of shark fines, as well as the Animals (Low-Welfare Activities Abroad) Bill, which will ban the sale and advertising of activities abroad which involve low standards of welfare for animals.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Craig Whittaker MP