Thank you for contacting me about the new Kept Animals Bill and your understandable concerns about puppy imports, live exports and ending the keeping of primates as pets. I will always support motions to improve animal welfare. As a vegetarian of over 20 years and a long-standing campaigner on animal rights these issues are really personal to me.
I support a vision where no animal is made to suffer unnecessary pain and degradation and where we continue to drive up standards and practice in line with the most recent advances and understanding. There is a need and an urgency to see better protection for animals, better enforcement, and better funding for services that are trying to look after them.
As you know, the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill was introduced to Parliament on 8 June 2021 and awaits its Second Reading.
I have long been calling for a ban on keeping primates as pets, and I am pleased that the government has finally responded to this. Keeping monkeys as pets is inhumane and wrong. Primates are very intelligent, social animals with complex needs that simply cannot be met in a home environment.
Likewise I would also like to see an end to the live exports of animals for slaughter and fattening. Although live exports may have declined considerably over the years to some 35,000 animals a year-although I am told that the figure varies-that is 35,000 too many, and I want to see an end to it.
In my view, we need proper action on the issue of puppy smuggling, and I therefore support increasing the minimum age for puppies being imported to six months. As a dog owner myself I am horrified by the reports of puppy smuggling happening across the UK. All animals should be treated with dignity and respect, not as products to be sold with no consideration for their health or wellbeing.
I also share your concerns about the cropping of dogs’ ears and believe we need legislation that is not only tighter but properly enforced. I am concerned that the Government has not brought forward measures on these issues quickly enough.
I further think it essential to call out people who put images of cropped dogs on social media platforms for likes, shares and followers, but who ignore the pain that comes with that dog. In addition to proper enforcement and stricter laws on this issue, I believe the Government must make sure that animal welfare is properly included in the action being taken on online harms, to take account of how the online world can drive poor behaviour in relation to animals.
More widely, I support the appointment of an independent Animal Welfare Commissioner to ensure that government policy is continually informed by the latest scientific evidence on animal sentience and best practice in animal welfare. The Commissioner would ensure that animal welfare standards are always considered as legislation is introduced and as Britain takes part in international bodies, trade deals and obligations.
It is my aspiration to make the UK a world leader in high animal welfare standards, and ending these abusive markets and practices will go some way to achieving this goal.