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Sat, 8 August 2020

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Are the Tories unaware of the increase in animal cruelty over the lockdown, or do they just not care?

Are the Tories unaware of the increase in animal cruelty over the lockdown, or do they just not care?

There has been a sharp increase in offences during lockdown and we urgently need to increase prison sentences, says Luke Pollard MP | Credit: PA Images

3 min read

There is a Private Members Bill in Parliament to raise sentences for people convicted of animal cruelty. It has cross-party support. All George Eustice has to do is bring it forward, and MPs will swiftly pass it so it becomes law.

Two weeks ago, I wrote to the environment secretary, George Eustice, to make a simple request to prevent cruelty to animals.

There has been a sharp increase in offences during lockdown and we urgently need to increase prison sentences.

There is a Private Members Bill in Parliament to raise sentences for people convicted of animal cruelty. It has cross-party support, but ministers are sitting on it. All George Eustice has to do is bring it forward, and MPs will swiftly pass it so it becomes law.

If the bill isn’t passed before the next Queen’s Speech, due in the autumn, it will fall

In a charming response to the request from leading animal welfare groups like the RSPCA, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, Dogs Trust, IFAW and the League Against Cruel Sports and me, instead of bringing it forward he pushed it back, kicking it into the long grass.

If the bill isn’t passed before the next Queen’s Speech, due in the autumn, it will fall. And the three year saga of this bill will continue into a fourth year.

We are a nation of animal lovers, and the people who elected us expect us to do everything we can to prevent cruelty.

Currently sentences for those convicted of animal cruelty are set at a maximum of six months. Animal charities, Labour, the Conservative backbenches, and even the Conservative manifesto support raising this to five years.

Ministers have refused to act with the urgency that is required to safeguard animals from harm

The Private Member’s Bill would increase sentences – but with all the confusion around parliamentary procedures at the moment, it’s unlikely this will see the light of day.

The government just needs to take control of it and give it the proper parliamentary time to make it happen. Ministers have refused to act with the urgency that is required to safeguard animals from harm.

Refusing to act raises really serious questions about the Conservatives’ handling of this issue. Are they unaware of the increase in animal cruelty over the lockdown, or do they just not care?

The Scottish Parliament passed similar legislation on this just last week. Far from being world leading, England is now falling behind even other parts of the UK.

The legislation is written, and this measure enjoys widespread support inside and outside of Parliament. What this shows is a lack of will to make it happen, and pets are suffering as a result.

 

Luke Pollard is Labour MP for Plymouth South and Devonport and shadow secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs.

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