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UK Government’s newly launched Action Plan for Animal Welfare aims to “right many wrongs for animals” says Humane Society International/UK

Humane Society International UK

4 min read Partner content

Action pledged on cruelty of foie gras, fur trade, pet trade, farming, entertainment and more with Animal Sentience Bill, Animals Abroad Bill and Kept Animals Bill

The Environment Secretary George Eustice has today launched Britain’s first Action Plan for Animal Welfare, committing to a raft of new measures to improve the treatment of companion, farm and wild animals in the UK and abroad, and commencing with the introduction tomorrow of a flagship Bill recognising animal sentience. 

Global animal charity, Humane Society International, welcomes the UK government for formally addressing many of the critical welfare issues the charity has raised for years such as ending the live export of farm animals; introducing restrictions on the use of rodent glue traps; and taking action on the trade in fur. However we are concerned to see some commitments, like a ban on the import of hunting trophies already being watered down. 

The announcement comes in the wake of the Queen’s Speech on Tuesday, which stated that “legislation will also be brought forward to ensure the United Kingdom has, and promotes, the highest standards of animal welfare” and aims to build on the UK’s existing standards to set up Britain as a world leader in animal welfare.  

Claire Bass, executive director of Humane Society International/UK said: “Britain prides itself as a nation of animal lovers, so the countless millions animals still suffering both here and overseas for food, fashion and our entertainment, deserve this proactive plan for greater protection. The Action Plan for Animal Welfare has the potential to right many wrongs for animals, and send a clear message that abusive or careless industries causing animal suffering will no longer have a place or a market in modern Britain. 

"However, the devil will be in the detail, for example the government already appear to be watering down a ban on trophy hunting imports. So we must ensure that these ambitious aims are met with equally ambitious and robust legislation. Delivering meaningful change for animals  requires real commitment from across Whitehall and a resolve not to buckle in the face of those with vested interests in inhumane products and practices.

"That includes a commitment right across government to ensure that our animal welfare wins at home are not undermined by a race to the bottom in trade negotiations. With the UK now out of the European Union, it is within our power and our best interest to set the highest possible welfare standards in all trade deals. Respect for animal welfare is not only the right thing to do for animals, it will also play a critical role in tackling global environmental and public health challenges such as climate change, antibiotic resistance and future pandemics.”

The full Action Plan for Animal Welfare can be viewed here. It covers legislative and non-legislative reforms, and both primary and secondary legislation, and addresses approximately 40 concerns, categorised under five keys themes: sentience and enforcement; international trade and advocacy; farm animals; pets and sporting animals; and wild animals.

The legislative programme for measures included in the Plan will be set out in the coming weeks.

Fast facts:

  • In the UK alone, 1.2 billion terrestrial  animals are raised for food every year. The use of growth-hormones and other drugs, as well the use of sow stalls and similar cruel practices - all of which are banned in the UK - could be allowed for goods imported under trade deals being negotiated right now. Part of the ‘Brexit-dividend’ must be protecting British welfare standards in future trade deals.
  • Fur farming was banned in Britain almost two decades ago in 2003 as it was deemed too cruel. But since then Britain has imported more than £800 million worth of fur from countries including Finland, China, France and Poland, a double standard that needs to end. A 2020 YouGov opinion poll also revealed that 93% of the British population reject wearing real animal fur, and the majority (72%) support a ban on the sale of fur in the UK.
  • Glue traps cause tremendous suffering to millions of mice and rats Acccording to recently published figures by the RSPCA, over 73% of glue trap incidents reported between 2015-2019 involved species other than rodents.The Scottish Animal Welfare Commission  has called for an immediate outright ban for the sale to the public of rodent glue traps in recognition that “there is no way that glue traps can be used without causing animal suffering” and that their use poses “an undeniable risk of capture to non-target species.”
  • Recent polling from Survation shows that 85% of the British public want a trophy hunting import ban as soon as possible and do not want an exemption loophole for trophies from hunts with a supposed ‘conservation benefit’ price tag.
  • Article 13 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU recognised animal sentience and imposed a duty have regard for animals’ welfare needs when formulating and implementing policies. This legal recognition for animals has been missing from the UK statute since the UK left the EU in January this year.


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