Despite our recent report about new legislation currently underway in the United Kingdom parliament, and the creation of the Animal Welfare Commission in Scotland, the UK has been downgraded in the the Animal Protection Index, a global assessment of countries’ records on animal welfare.  This has been largely due to Brexit parliamentary delays which have held up these planned laws, covering animal sentience and export regulations.

The UK previously held an ‘A’ grade, but has now dropped to a ‘B’ in the second revised edition of the Animal Protection Index (API), published by global World Animal Protection, which assesses the animal welfare and legislation of 50 countries around the world.  The index scored countries from ‘A’, being the highest score, to ‘G’, the weakest.

Shockingly, not one country has obtained an ‘A’ grade, although the United Kingdom is still rated highest, along with Sweden and Austria, who all have achieved a ‘B’ score.  But there is obviously room for improvement in these countries too.

Since the last edition of the API, the UK’s progress has been delayed by Brexit, and more recently Coronavirus.  This includes transferring the recognition of animal sentience from EU regulation to UK law, and reviewing legal protections afforded to invertebrate species.

Some countries, such as Morocco, Iran, Algeria and Belarus, are still missing the basic legal framework needed to protect animals, and many countries do not formally recognise animal sentience in their existing legislation.  The severe animal welfare concerns range from intensive farming, wildlife markets and associated trade, which are all proven threats of disease outbreak, such as is possibly the case with the most recent global pandemic, Coronavirus.

The API was first launched in 2014 by World Animal Protection, alongside other animal protection non-governmental organisations, after consultation with academic experts.  For thus second edition of the API, released in 2020, the methodology was refined by World Animal Protection, and the organisation is calling on all governments to immediately improve their animal welfare standards.  This would not only benefit the animals themselves, but would also reduce the risk to public health.

Sonul Badiani-Hamment, World Animal Protection UK external affairs advisor, said, “The UK government is failing to keep up with the latest science on animal welfare and has been treading water, making promises of new legislation on animal sentience that have not been met.”

He continued, “The UK is a nation of animal lovers, and the government must reflect this in their work and continue to improve animal protections if it is to ensure we regain our top rating.  We need stronger laws protecting animals in farming, entertainment and in homes.  This is particularly important as the UK leaves the EU, to ensure that hard-won protections are not lost in the rush to agree new trade deals.”

We hope that the new legislation currently going through the UK parliament is not subject to further delays as the result of Coronavirus, and that MPs take seriously the need to constantly update and improve legislation and laws to reflect the real concern the UK public has for animal welfare.  Hopefully, at least in Scotland, the creation of the Animal Welfare Commission will ensure that in this country there will be no further delays to ensure that all animals are protected.

12th March 2020

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