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Open letter to the PM: Time is running out to deliver on the Action Plan for Animal Welfare

Credit: Alamy

#ActionForAnimals campaign

4 min read Partner content

On the second anniversary of the Government’s flagship Action Plan for Animal Welfare, 25 leading animal protection organisations urge Rishi Sunak: stop letting animals, and voters, down.

Dear Prime Minister,

On 12th May 2021, the Conservative Government published its Action Plan for Animal Welfare to a chorus of approval from our organisations. In its foreword, then-Environment Secretary George Eustice set out a simple principle on which the plan was built: “The way we treat animals reflects our values and the kind of people we are.”  The plan includes proud reflections on our 200-year history of animal protection laws, the oldest in the world, and very welcome intent: “We will continue to raise the bar, and we intend to take the rest of the world with us.”

This week marks the second anniversary of the Action Plan. Since its publication, our organisations, our millions of supporters, the animal-loving British public, and the animals they and we care so deeply about, have been badly let down by your Government.

Of the more than 35 ‘game changing welfare measures’ pledged in the Plan to protect companion animals, farmed animals and wildlife, both at home and overseas, only around a quarter have been delivered. And some of the parts that have, such as flagship legislation recognising animals as sentient beings and requiring Ministers to safeguard animal welfare, have yet to come into force a full year after Royal Assent.

Your Party’s manifesto promises, including banning live exports and stopping the cruel trade in puppies, have been left languishing as the Government’s Kept Animals Bill has not been given Parliamentary time for over 17 months. If not resurrected before summer recess, it will fail to pass into law.

We have recently learned that Defra Ministers are minded to dismantle the Bill, apparently paranoid that it could be hijacked for an uncomfortable debate on issues such as the Hunting Act. Such concerns in no way legitimise the derailment of this vital legislation.  It is likely that a new set of Bills would not receive sufficient time to deliver the key contents of the Kept Animals Bill in any case.

Over the past 18 months, dozens of Parliamentary questions have sought assurance on whether the Government intends to honour its commitments to animal welfare, and to voters. The Government has responded that action for animals, including the vital Kept Animals Bill, may be forthcoming ‘when Parliamentary time allows’.

Meanwhile, in less than a year your Government has found the time to both introduce and pass the Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Act, legislation that creates serious animal welfare risks and ethical concerns. And despite commitments in both your Party’s manifesto and the 2021 Action Plan that ‘in all of our trade negotiations, we will not compromise on our high…animal welfare…standards’, your Government has sold out our country’s animal welfare principles in trade deals that will liberalise market access for products of cruelty from overseas.

Action to end the UK’s involvement in the global fur trade, an inherently cruel industry that poses serious disease risk and could very well be the source of the next pandemic, has ground to a halt. A ban on fur imports is supported by 77% of British people and backed by more than 150 cross-party MPs, but the results from Defra’s 2021 Call For Evidence remain unpublished, and the Government’s policy in this area is apparently instead determined by the personal views of a small number of MPs.

Our patience, and our trust, has now been exhausted.

The Kept Animals Bill, and the majority of the Action Plan, now appears to be little more than an inconvenience to a Government that believes it can quietly abandon its promises. Animal issues matter to voters.

In 2021 the Government committed to introducing ‘tangible, enduring change… as a key government priority’ and pledged to ensure that the UK offers animals ‘the care, respect and protection they deserve’. You have the power now, as the clock runs down on this Parliamentary session, to honour that commitment.

The sentiment in the Action Plan is sound and correct: the way we treat animals does reflect our values and the kind of people we are. Please show us, and our supporters, that yours will not be the Government that abandons the world-leading progress for animals that so many millions of British people are waiting for.

Signed by the following animal protection organisations:

Animal Aid
Animal Defenders International
Animal Equality UK
Animal Interfaith Alliance
Animal Protection Agency
Born Free Foundation
Catholic Concern for Animals
Compassion in World Farming
Crustacean Compassion
Focus on Animal Law
Freedom for Animals 
Humane Society International/UK
League Against Cruel Sports
Naturewatch Foundation
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals 
Scottish SPCA
The Shellfish Network
Whale and Dolphin Conservation
Wildlife & Countryside Link 
Wild Welfare
World Animal Protection

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