Animal Welfare Round-Up #5 – March 2016


Welcome to my latest Animal Welfare Round-Up. This is a newsletter I send out every two months to update you on the issues that many of you get in touch with me about. This allows me to update you on the action I’ve been taking on your behalf on these issues. You can find my previous AWRUs on my website.

National Wildlife Crime Unit

logoI wanted to ensure that you heard the great news that the National Wildlife Crime Unit has secured 4 years of funding. The government funding had been set to expire next month, but the campaign to help save the unit has been ongoing for many months and the voice of the public undoubtedly influenced the government’s decision.

Shortly before the announcement was made, I questioned the government on what action they are taking more generally to reduce wildlife-related crime. I also asked what impact the NWCU has had on reducing crime, but the government has not assessed its effectiveness.

Pheasants in Cages

pheasant_25The caging of pheasants was the animal welfare issue I had the most emails about. A large number of you are rightly concerned about the living conditions of these beautiful birds. Many pheasants are confined to a metal cage for their whole life, often for the sole purpose of being shot.

In light of your emails, I put a question to the government on improving the welfare of pheasants in the UK and reducing the number reared in cages. Unfortunately, it appears that while they intend to make some changes later this year, the government are not planning to reduce the number of pheasants reared in cages.


Rabbit_1523503cThe snaring and trapping of animals has been another big issue recently. As many of you will be aware, these traps are placed in and around farms so that an animal can be restrained until somebody comes to release or kill it. Unfortunately, they often cause very serious or life-threatening injuries and even regularly kill animals. Shockingly, up to 70% of the animals that are caught are non-target species, including badgers, deer and even domestic pets like cats or dogs.

The government has recently stated that they are weighing up a number of options on this before making an announcement. However, I have asked them to outline what their position is and what measures they are considering.

Circus Animals

zebraDespite having received a large amount of attention and attempts at reform in recent years, animal performances in circuses continue in the UK. Though the numbers are now low, this does not mean we can afford to be inactive.

The Conservatives committed themselves to outlaw this in their manifesto, yet it is Conservative MPs – elected on that same manifesto – who continue to block attempts by other MPs to pass bills on this issue. There is another bill before the House at the moment, but as it does not have government support it will likely fail.

As such, I wrote to the government to ask if they will bring their own bill before the House and if they are consulting on this. I will keep you updated with their responses.

EU Nature Directives – Update

As I mentioned in my previous AWRU, I wrote to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on the subject of EU Nature Directives. My original letter to the minister outlined many of your thoughts about the importance of the directives as well as your concerns that they could be watered down after review. I have since received a response from a government minister, which you can read here.

Reminder: WWF Earth Hour – Saturday 19th March at 8.30pm

201603 WWF Earth HourAnd finally, a quick reminder of WWF Earth Hour. Every year, this event brings millions of people together to take simple actions, most notably turning off their lights for one hour to demonstrate their support for our planet and its future.

I recently attended an event in Parliament where I pledged my support for WWF and Earth Hour. You can find more information and events by using the website or the #EarthHourUK hashtag.



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Richard Burden

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I was Labour Member of Parliament for Birmingham Northfield between 1992 and 2019 and a former Shadow Transport Minister. I now chair Healthwatch in Birmingham and Solihull, and the West Midlands Board of Remembering Srebrenica. I also work as a public affairs consultant. I am an effective community advocate and stakeholder alliance builder with a passion for human rights. I am a trustee of the Balfour Project charity and of Citizens Advice Birmingham, and a former Chair of Medical Aid for Palestinians.

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