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Mon, 13 July 2020

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Coronavirus should accelerate action on animal cruelty - not delay it further

Coronavirus should accelerate action on animal cruelty - not delay it further

The lockdown may be unprecedented but there is never, ever any excuse for animal cruelty, says Luke Pollard MP | Credit: PA Images

3 min read

Increasing prison sentences for animal cruelty from six months to five years could save the lives of animals and prevent unspeakable suffering.

Britain is a nation of animal lovers. In times of crisis we value the companionship, the warmth and love of our pets more and more.

It is our duty to do everything we can to end cruelty to animals. One of the reasons I went into politics in the first place was to give a voice to the voiceless.

Animals don’t have a voice in politics so it is important we give them one. One issue that has remained stubbornly unresolved is the paltry prison sentences given to those convicted of animal cruelty with a maximum sentence of just six months.

One of the unintended consequences of the lockdown, and one which has been overlooked in the debate so far, is the increase in animal cruelty during the lockdown.

Since the Government announced restrictions in March, the RSPCA has reported that its frontline officers have dealt with more than 47,000 incidents, more than in the same time period last year. This has mainly been directed to animals kept as pets in homes.

It’s clear that the government needs to act. At times of stress our animals can be solace and comfort, but they can also bear the brunt of frustration and anger. The lockdown may be unprecedented but there is never, ever any excuse for animal cruelty. The increase in cruelty cases and the very real risk that economic hardships will create more animal cruelty means the long overdue increase in sentences for those convicted of animal cruelty is now urgent.

Increasing sentences for those convicted of animal cruelty has enjoyed widespread public and political support for years.

The former Labour MP Anna Turley introduced a bill to do just that in 2016. But the arcane and confusing ways our Parliament works means that it is still nowhere near being law – despite having widespread support.

More animals will suffer in the coming weeks. That much we already know.

The public and MPs across the House want to see this Bill pass. It just needs the government to show the political will to make it happen. That’s why I have written to the Environment Secretary today, asking him to take control of this issue. If he makes the Animal Sentencing Bill a government bill, and give it time to be debated properly, then he will have Labour’s full support.

More animals will suffer in the coming weeks. That much we already know.

The signal that would be sent by increasing prison sentences from six months to five years could save the lives of animals and prevent unspeakable suffering. It just needs Ministers to step up. If they do, they will have Labour’s support. If not, we’ll back at square one very soon.

 

Luke Pollard is Labour and Co-operative MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport and shadow secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs.

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