The Kept Animals Bill has been dropped
The RSPCA is "frustrated and disappointed" that the UK Government has today (25 May) announced that it is binning its long-awaited Kept Animals Bill - which was a cornerstone of its animal welfare policy agenda.
Restricting the keeping of primates as pets, banning the export of livestock for slaughter and further fattening and banning the import of dogs with cropped ears, were all commitments contained with the Bill.
It was also set to deal with livestock worrying, make pet theft a specific offence, and limit the non-commercial movement of dogs, cats and ferrets.
The Bill had its first reading in June 2021, but has had no meaningful activity since November 2021 - having sat in limbo for more than 550 days, while animals continued to suffer.
Now, the UK Government has announced the legislation will be scrapped; with policy commitments instead being broken up and taken forward separately - but with no clear timescales attached to this.
Plans were also afoot for the Welsh Parliament to vote to give consent for the Bill to apply to Wales, bringing progress to countless animals in Wales - but today's news throws that into serious doubt too.
Emma Slawinski, director of policy, at the RSPCA said:
“We have been waiting for almost two years for the Kept Animals Bill to improve the lives of billions of animals and now it’s effectively been scrapped. While politicians dither, animals suffer.
“We are frustrated and disappointed that, despite overwhelming public support, the UK Government has delayed and delayed and has now broken up the bill, leading to yet more uncertainty and lost time.
“The Secretary of State has said that she wants to proceed separately with elements of the bill like ending live exports of animals for fattening and slaughter and clamping down on puppy smuggling but the proof of the pudding will be in the eating.
“We want to see urgent legislative progress on everything that was in the bill, including a ban on the import of dogs with cropped ears.
“With a General Election likely next year, it is imperative that ministers honour all their manifesto commitments for animals before that happens.”
This news comes just days after the High Court rejected a legal challenge to Defra on the use of fast-growing breeds of ‘Franken-chickens’ which suffer severe health and welfare issues with many having ‘lives not worth living’.
“We are facing the very real prospect of a dramatic downward spiral in animal welfare.
“The UK is falling behind the rest of the world on animal welfare - behind Brazil and New Zealand on banning live exports and behind parts of the US and the EU on ending the use of cages in farming and the transition to animal-free research. The UK Government’s rhetoric on being a global leader for animal welfare has to be matched by its actions.
“We are approaching 200-years since the birth of the animal welfare movement - ironically started in a coffee shop not far from The Houses of Parliament by an MP and a member of the House of Lords.
“We need to dramatically rethink our relationship with the animals we eat, use for scientific research, and share our homes with, as well as the wildlife we rely on for survival. The RSPCA will continue to push for a better world for all animals - including people."
Sentience Committee update
In better news for animals, the UK Government has also today (25 May) unveiled a new Animal Sentience Committee, which will consider how all central government policy decisions consider animal welfare.
Under a broad remit, the Committee has the power to examine any decision made by a UK Government Minister on the development and implementation of policy.
It was established as a result of the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Act 2022, and paves the way for the Committee to explore adverse effects on animals stemming from government decisions. Reports made by the Committee must be responded to by Ministers.
"We welcome the announcement of a dedicated committee, to report on how any government policy impacts animals as sentient beings; giving a crucial voice to animals.
"The RSPCA's Animal Kindness Index tells us that an overwhelming majority of people want governments to protect animals in law - and this Committee's work will help the UK Government understand the direct and indirect consequences of so many policy decisions on animals.
"However, while this new Sentience Committee is a big step forward, if this UK Government is really serious about improving animal welfare it needs to break the deadlock and quickly bring back all commitments contained within the Kept Animals Bill.”