It has been suggested the vote last week on New Clause 30 of the EU Withdrawal Bill signalled a weakening in the protection of animals. That is completely untrue.
The EU protocol on animals, which the opposition amendment sought to enshrine in our law, allows bullfighting, veal farming, foie gras ‘production’, live exports for slaughter and cruel fur product imports. By contrast British animal welfare laws put EU laws to shame and go far beyond their weak protections. We can and will strengthen them further still. Voting against the amendment was certainly not a vote against the idea that animals are sentient and feel pain.
The Conservative Government is acting energetically to reduce the risk of harm to animals – whether on farms or in the wild. We are already proposing primary legislation to increase maximum sentences for animal cruelty from six months to five years, and the creation of a new statutory, independent body to uphold environmental standards. We are making CCTV mandatory in all slaughterhouses, we will consult on draft legislation to jail animal abusers for up to five years – more than almost every other European nation. We propose combating elephant poaching with a ban on the ivory trade which is more comprehensive than anywhere else in Europe. Our ban on micro beads which harm marine animals has been welcomed by Greenpeace as “the strongest in the world”, and is certainly the strongest in Europe.
I am proud that the UK was the first country in the world to implement laws protecting animals. The Government has publicly stated the self-evident fact that animals are living, sentient beings, and I share its continuing commitment to the highest standards of animal welfare.