Supporting animal welfare

There is a story that has been run in the Croydon Advertiser stating that I and my Conservative colleagues have voted that animals do not feel pain. This is untrue.

Both myself and the Government are committed to animal welfare and animal rights, which already receive extensive protections under a number of Acts, including the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. What was voted on last week was an amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill to retain an instrument of EU law that has failed to prevent cruel and painful practices to animals across the European Union.

As Ministers explained at the time, the Government does recognise the importance of animal welfare and animal’s sentience. At Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, the Prime Minister made it crystal clear that we will strengthen our animal welfare rules. This government will ensure that any necessary changes required to UK law are made in a properly rigorous and comprehensive way to ensure animal sentience is recognised after we leave the EU. The Withdrawal Bill is not the right place to address this.

The Conservative Government is already proposing primary legislation to increase maximum sentences for animal cruelty from six months to five years, and the creation of a new statutory, independent body to uphold environmental standards. We are making CCTV mandatory in all slaughterhouses – a requirement which goes above and beyond any EU rule. We will consult on draft legislation to jail animal abusers for up to five years – more than almost every other European nation. We propose combatting elephant poaching with a ban on the ivory trade which is more comprehensive than anywhere else in Europe. Our ban on microbeads which harm marine animals has been welcomed by Greenpeace as “the strongest in the world”, and is certainly the strongest in Europe.

I am personally committed to the rights and protection of animals and will continue to support the Government in this.

I hope that the Advertiser will follow the example of the Independent and withdraw this misleading story as well as issue a correction.