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Government 'actively reviewing' tougher penalties for animal cruelty, says Michael Gove

Government 'actively reviewing' tougher penalties for animal cruelty, says Michael Gove

John Ashmore

3 min read

The Government is considering introducing tougher penalties for cruelty to animals, Michael Gove has suggested.

The Environment Secretary said he was “actively reviewing” the criminal sanctions for the offence, which is currently covered by the Animal Welfare Act introduced by Labour in 2007.

Speaking at departmental questions this morning, Mr Gove said he was “actively reviewing” the law and could toughen up punishments for certain offences.

Answering a question from Tory backbencher Philip Davies, he said: "It’s something I’m actively reviewing.

“As the Honourable Gentleman knows, I’m not someone who will automatically reach for stronger criminal sanctions as the only route to dealing with a problem, but there are particular cases of animal cruelty where we may well need to revisit the existing criminal sanctions to ensure the very worst behaviour is dealt with within the full force of the law.”

Animal welfare charity Blue Cross said a sharp increase in sentencing was long overdue.

"The UK has some of the lowest sentences in Europe and this is why we are calling on the government to increase sentences to a maximum of five years – the current being six months which is just not good enough," said head of public affairs Becky Thwaites.

"We hope that the Government will revisit this issue and make the necessary changes to ensure the punishment is a fitting  deterrent."

Jacqui Cuff, Advocacy and Government Relations Manager at Cats Protection, agreed that it was time for a change in the law.

"Cats are the victims of horrendous crimes including being shot, poisoned with antifreeze and caught in illegal snares. A recent and appalling example is the cruelty inflicted by the M25 Cat Killer, reported to have killed, dismembered and decapitated 100s of cats. To date the culprit(s) has not been caught"

"The maximum custodial sentence of 6 months under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 needs to be increased to ensure that sentences reflect the seriousness of the offence," she said.

"Increasing the maximum sentence can also help to deter offenders and reduce reoffending.”


Mr Gove added that he would not allow any watering down of animal welfare regulations after Brexit.

His Conservative colleague Vicky Ford said that during the recent election campaign more of her Chelmsford constituents had contacted her about animal welfare than all other issues put together.

“My commitment is clear that while we want to lead the world in free trade we also want to remain a world leader in animal welfare, there will be no compromise on our standards as we seek to ensure that we pilot better position for British farming for British trade in the future.”

The Secretary of State also burnished his own environmentalist credentials by telling MPs his own diet is “predominantly herbivorous”.

"I'm an animal, we're all animals, and therefore I care," he added. "It's an absolutely vital commitment we have to ensure that all creation is maintained, advanced and protected."

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