A response from Sir Peter Bottomley MP:
Thank you for contacting me about Animal Welfare.
A million plant and animal species are at risk of extinction and biodiversity is declining faster now than at any previous time in human history.
Over many years, I have been a strong advocate for the protection of animals and have authored and signed multiple Early Day Motions calling on the Government to enshrine in law greater protection for wildlife.
Action Plan for Animal Welfare:
In May 2021, the Government set out a highly ambitious plan in the Action Plan for Animal Welfare (APAW). This included action to enshrine animal-free research.
In 2021, the APAW came into force. This rightly codified animals' status as sentient beings into law, ensuring that animal sentience is considered when the Government is creating policy. It also increased the prison sentence for animal abuse from six months to five years.
I welcome the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Act, which has completed its passage into law, which further enshrines recognition of animal sentience in domestic law, and establish an expert-led Animal Sentience Committee, which will produce reports on the impact of policy decisions on animal welfare.
I share the Conservatives' commitment to the highest standards of animal welfare and hope that you do too.
The Action Plan for Animal Welfare (APAW) includes greater protections for the welfare of farmed animals, including hens.
Around 60 per cent of our hens are now kept in free-range systems, and a number of major supermarkets have pledged to stop selling eggs from the remaining 40 per cent of hens in cages by 2025.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has a statutory code for hen welfare, and ministers are considering different cage systems that are used in the UK and abroad.
Any decision on cage reform will take time. There must be considerations for the full implications on animal welfare balanced with industry concerns, followed by a phase-out period to secure realistic animal welfare results and industry sustainability.
Fur and Fois Gras:
The government is aware of the welfare concerns over fois gras and Ministers are currently committed to building an evidence base to develop future policy. Please be assured that the policies set out on the APAW have not been shelved.
Ministers are similarly working on gaining evidence to develop further policy on fur sale and the use of faux fur.
The UK banned fur farming in 2003, and I am pleased to see that the majority of UK retailers have stopped selling real fur. The UK government is also committed to ensuring that all fur sold in the UK is labelled correctly so that consumers can make an informed choice.
Events in Parliament, particularly those organized by Fur Free Britain, have been supportive of work to develop further policy. I will attend whenever possible these events to show support for this important campaign.
The Use of Snares:
I am aware that laws are in place around the use of snares to protect wildlife. The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 states that it is illegal to set in position any trap or snare calculated to cause bodily injury to certain wild animals, including badgers, otters, red squirrels, and hedgehogs.
The Deer Act 1991 makes it an offence to set in position any trap or snare calculated to cause bodily injury to any deer coming into contact with it, or to use any trap or snare for the purpose of killing, taking or restraining such an animal. Snares which have been set in position must be inspected once a day. The use of a self-locking snare is illegal, and the Animal Welfare Act 2006 prohibits causing any unnecessary suffering to any animal.
While laws are in place, my ministerial colleagues recognise that there have been cases of snares being used indiscriminately and not being checked, and the code of practice not being followed. Penalties are in place when the law is not followed, including an unlimited fine or a custodial sentence. Anyone who suspects that snares have not been used properly should contact the police.
Fox Hunting Ban:
Some have been in touch regarding Fox Hunting. I appreciate that this issue is highly emotive and I share concern for the welfare of our nation's countryside wildlife.
The Hunting Act 2004 makes it an offence to hunt a wild mammal with dogs except where it is carried out in accordance with the exemptions in the Act. Those found guilty under the law are subject to its full force.
The Government made a manifesto commitment not to amend the Hunting Act. I support this.
Since the introduction of the Hunting Act 2004, many hunts have turned to trail hunting as an alternative to live quarry hunting. This involves a pack of hounds following an artificially laid, animal-based scent so does not involve a hunt for a live fox, and therefore is not banned.
For an offence to be committed it is necessary to prove that a wild animal is being hunted intentionally. If proven, this can lead to prosecution and an unlimited fine.
Anyone who believes that an offence has taken place during a hunt, including during a trail hunt, should report the matter to the police.
Thank you once again for taking the time to contact me on this important subject.