Justice will finally be done for abused animals
With the passing of the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill, the League Against Cruel Sports say that there is now the power to deliver true justice for abused animals | Credit: Alamy
The passing of the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill represents significant progress in the battle against animal cruelty. The law must now be followed up with effective deterrence to ensure justice for all abused animals.
Justice is often hard to measure and means different things to different people. We tend to take it for granted in our society, but when we see injustices such as the recent case of the Royal Mail sub-postmasters, we recognise it immediately.
To some, access to justice is more important than food and water. Incredibly, one survey commissioned during the building of the Kajaki Damn in 2008, when I served on the staff of the UK-led Regional Multinational Headquarters in Afghanistan, put it above the alleviation of hardship that irrigating 650,000 acres of land and providing electricity to tens of thousands of people would bring.
Animals deserve ‘access to justice’ too, but only humans can provide it. Anna Turley knew this, the then MP for Redcar, when she tried to bring the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill after the case of Baby the bulldog, subjected to the most shocking brutality by two of Anna’s constituents.
Justice is only done when it is seen to be done.
Kevin Foster MP also tried to pass a bill on dog fighting (the cruellest of pastimes banned in this country in 1835). Fly tipping attracts ten times the maximum penalty. Where was the justice in that?
And so it was that for the last two years, the charity I lead, the League Against Cruel Sports, and ten of the most powerful animal welfare organisations lobbied together to carry on Anna’s work to see maximum sentences for the worst animal cruelty increased in England and Wales from six months to five years. Last month, despite delay after delay, we saw success.
That Parliament voted so overwhelmingly to pass it says a lot of very good things about this country and its representatives. It also shows the power of working in coalition and focusing on what binds us together as a nation, as well as living up to our reputation for protecting the helpless. I want to thank Chris Loder MP and Lord Randall of Uxbridge for spearheading what the latter described as “the most significant piece of animal welfare legislation since the Animal Welfare Act of 2006”.
Turning back to Baby the bulldog, who can say that if a five-year sentence had been in place that she would not have been tortured? But what we can be much surer about is that they would have had plenty of time to ponder on it in jail. Justice is only done when it is seen to be done.
The question is, will the courts use these powers? They must if it is to be an effective deterrence. Now this job is done, we will now seek custodial sentences for those that are found guilty of illegal hunting.
The scales of justice still need balancing on this issue.
League Against Cruel Sports CEO, Andy Knott MBE, is a former British Army officer who commanded his regiment in Afghanistan