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Animal Welfare Round-up Issue #1

This is my inaugural animal welfare round-up where I will regularly update you on some of the animal causes I have been campaigning on.

I am regularly in contact with many local people regarding issues of animal welfare. I believe strongly that there is no place in a civilised society for animal cruelty and often raise these concerns with the UK Government.

No to repealing the Hunting Act

I received over a hundred emails from local people sharing their concerns that the Government will introduce a free vote on repealing the Hunting Act.

I was a strong supporter of the Hunting Bill and the previous attempts made to ban hunting with dogs in parliament. Over ten years on since the ban became law, I continue to hold the same view and remain tremendously proud that the Labour Party helped to ban hunting with dogs.

My opposition to repealing the Act was why at this General Election, the Conservatives in Birmingham Northfield were apparently offered assistance from a hunting group as suggested here. This says a lot about what the pro-hunting lobby think they will get from Conservative Government – and why they wanted me out!

I believe that the vast majority of the British public support the ban on hunting and I share the concerns among animal right supporters and organisations such as the RSPCA, League Against Cruel Sports and International Fund for Animal Welfare. That is why I wrote to Liz Truss MP, the Defra Secretary to express my concerns, and remind her about the popularity and success of the Act. You can read my letter here.

Should a free vote arise on the matter, I will of course be voting no to any repeal of the Hunting Act.

Speaking up for seals

Many of you were also in touch with me regarding the protection of seals from hunting. In coastal areas across the UK, fishermen are killing seals in order to prevent a decline in fish stocks.

Ensuring a sustainable fish stock is crucial for many jobs, livelihoods and local economies in coastal towns. Nevertheless the maintenance of fish stocks and the protection of seal populations are not mutually exclusive options.

I have therefore written to Defra Secretary, Liz Truss MP, to see what steps she is taking to ensure an effective ban on seal killing.

Under the EU Habitats directive many seals should be protected and the use of non-lethal deterrents such as nets and acoustic devices are both practical ways of helping to reduce seal-slaughter. But I am aware they cannot completely solve the challenge for example nets can still drown seals, sea birds and dolphins.

Wild animals in circuses

A number of local people have also re-raised the issue of wild animals in circus. I, of course, support a ban, unfortunately despite five years promising to act on the issue, the Conservative Government failed to introduce a relatively simple piece of legislation that had public support.

At the recent General Election Labour had committed to introducing a ban on wild animals in circuses and would have included such a proposal in the Queens Speech. Last week we saw the Conservatives continue to avoid the issue.

I find it very concerning that the UK is seriously lagging behind the rest of the world on this matter, and continue to back the introduction of this legislation.

Puppy farming

In the past few years, organisations including Dogs Trust and Naturewatch, have highlighted very serious concerns over puppy farming and general malpractice in dog breeding here in the UK.

I agree that animals should not be treated as an ordinary commodity to be bought and sold without due consideration for their welfare. It is important that all breeders follow the high animal welfare standards enshrined in the Animal Welfare Act 2006, that these are properly enforced and improved if necessary.

During the last Parliament I supported the Private Member’s Bill introduced by my Labour colleague, Rob Flello MP’s Private Member’s Bill which backed the creation of a Code of Practice for dog breeding to strengthen the Animal Welfare Act.

There are various areas where dog welfare can be improved – including, clamping down on smuggling, preventing housing associations from allowing tenants to dog-breed and ensuring all sellers are adequately licensed, be it from a pet shop or privately.

That’s why along with the ban on wild animals in circuses, Labour announced at the election that we would review existing laws relating to the welfare of dogs. The Government however have refused to agree to any review. Over the coming months, the Shadow Labour Defra team will continue to campaign on this important issue.

You may also appreciate to know that back in March, I represented the Labour Party in a debate on Harvey’s Law. The debate sought changes to identifying dogs killed on roads, and the requirement of Highways England to notify owners when they are found. You can read more about how I supported “Harvey’s Army” here.

If you would like to receive each round-up straight to your inbox please email me via richard.burden.mp@parliament.uk