Two new measures introduced recently in Westminster and by the Scottish Government show that the UK is set to get tough on animal welfare and those who are guilty of animal cruelty.
Firstly, the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill has been published by Conservative MP Chris Loder, which will enable tougher prison sentences for the most serious perpetrators of animal cruelty, from the current maximum of six months to up to five years. Tjis would be one of the toughest sanctions for animal abuse in Europe, strengthening the UK’s undoubted position as a global leader on animal welfare.
The Bill followed a period of public consultation back in 2017, in which more than 70% of people supported the proposals for tougher prison sentences. Those people who are found guilty in cases of dog fighting, cruelty towards domestic pets including puppies and kittens, or gross neglect of farm animals will find that the courts have greater sentencing powers. This follows legislation to outlaw puppy farms in 2019.
Chris Loder, MP for West Dorset, said, “I was shocked to learn that in 2019 the RSPCA investigated more than 130,700 complaints of cruelty against animals, and secured 1,678 convictions. I believe tougher sentencing will act as a greater deterrent against the worst examples of animal cruelty.”
Meanwhile Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers was equally delighted at the legislation. “There is no place in this country for animal cruelty, which is why I am delighted the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill is being introduced to Parliament to raise prison terms for the worst abusers. It is a crucial piece of legislation which will help deter criminals and will ensure robust and appropriate action is taken if they are found guilty.”
Meanwhile, the Scottish Government has appointed a new Animal Welfare Commission, an independent group of animal experts who will provide scientific and ethical advice to the Scottish Parliament.
Chaired by Professor Cathy Dwywe from Scotland’s Rural College and the University of Edinburgh, the commission of twelve members will consider how the welfare needs of sentient animals are being met by devolved policy, as well as possible legislative routes to further the protection of animals. They will also consider future research required for future policy development.
SNP Rural Affairs Minister Mairi Gougoen said, “I am delighted to appoint these experts to work with Professor Dwyer, and I very much look forward to working closely with them. Each member shares a passion for animal welfare and brings invaluable key skills and knowledge.”
Both these measures will come as a relief to ethical vegans, who very much have the welfare of animals at the top of their list of reasons for their lifestyle choices. Not only will the UK legislation deter the cruelty of animals in the care of members of the public, it demonstrates that the Scottish Government is taking the welfare of animals very seriously. It will be interesting to see the effect these measures will have on the treatment of animals in the future.