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 have long believed that the UK should lead the world with high animal welfare standards where no animal is made to suffer unnecessary pain and degradation, and that it is not a binary choice between animal and human welfare.
I have long supported ending the use of cages on farms, while allowing farmers the time to plan and make necessary changes. In my view, these are outdated farming practices that cause animals distress and restrict their natural behaviour. I congratulate Compassion in World Farming for the level of support it has attained for its campaign.
I do not believe suffering through the use of cages should be allowed to continue as it clearly causes fear and stress in animals and there are alternatives available. I think we must move on to loose-housing systems. However, in my view, we must see improvements being made in a sensible, measured way, working with industry and introducing measures it can cope with.
It is also vital we ensure any domestic production of animal products produced through higher welfare, cage-free standards, is not simply undercut and replaced by imports from countries still using lower-welfare cage systems.
The Government has indicated its consultation on the future of cages for laying hens is almost ready, but that its consultation on pig farrowing crates is still being worked on. I will follow developments on these matters closely.
More widely, I also supported measures contained within the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act which increase maximum sentences for the most severe acts of animal cruelty from six months to five years’ imprisonment. I am pleased that after so much hard work this legislation became law on 29 April 2021.
I believe all animals deserve protection, whether they are on a farm, at home as a pet, at large in the wild or in the sea. Animals should not suffer unnecessary pain and degradation and we must continue to drive up standards and practice in line with the most recent advances and understanding. Strengthening our animal welfare laws is one of Labour’s top priorities.
I am disappointed by the stagnant Government policy, which doesn’t go far enough to tackle the continued abuse of animals daily.
I will continue to press the Government to end this inhumane practice and continue to speak up on this important subject.