‘Once in a generation’ opportunity to protect animals

50 Animal charities unite to urge Government not to waste ‘once in a generation’ opportunity to protect animals.

‘Once in a generation’ opportunity to protect animals

An unprecedented coalition of 50 animal welfare charities is urging the Government not to waste a ‘once-in-a-generation opportunity’ to redefine our relationship with animals through a new animal health and welfare strategy.

The group has released a new report – “Act Now For Animals” – setting out the sector’s priorities for creating a society which rebalances the way we rear, live and work with animals.

The paper sets out 40 recommendations – including measures to improve horse, pony and donkey welfare and others which cover farmed animals, wildlife, and exotics.

Crucial to the paper’s recommendations, is the role of the new Animal Sentience Committee. For the Government to fulfil its commitment to recognise animals as sentient beings, the coalition are clear that the committee must have real teeth. It must be independently chaired, made up of the leading animal welfare experts in the country and be able to meaningfully hold Ministers to account.

Roly Owers, Chief Executive of World Horse Welfare said:

“We are fast entering the last chance saloon to create a frictionless, digitised system for equine identification, something that we have been highlighting for nearly a decade.  This is a fundamental requirement for all other equine welfare legislation to work and we now finally have the opportunity to make this happen this year if government shows the political will. 

“An effective equine ID system is also inextricably linked to the other vital piece of the jigsaw: effective enforcement, and this too will need the political will to ensure a realistic allocation of resources for Local Authorities to fulfil this role.”

Chris Packham, who has lent his support to the charities, added:

“The last animal welfare strategy was 17 years ago in 2004 and so much has changed since then. The past two decades have seen an attitudinal change in the public and growing scientific understanding that animals have emotions, feelings and needs and deserve a good life.

“We must act now for animals and ensure the Government does not squander this opportunity to build a world-leading animal welfare strategy, fit for the 21st century and deserving of this nation of animal lovers.”

Other influential names lending their support to the action include DJ Sara Cox, TV personality Angela Rippon, choreographer and TV presenter Arlene Phillips, actress and wildlife campaigner Virginia McKenna and actress Carol Royle.

Equine welfare recommendations include

  • Ensure equine identification is enforced effectively for the first time in 12 years by introducing a statutory obligation to enforce the rules, requiring the registration of equine premises and make both the owner and the keeper (the Operator) responsible for keeping the Government’s digital equine database up to date; this will ensure data on equines and premises is accurate linking the owner to the horse and so improve animal welfare
  • Stop the live export of equines for slaughter and further fattening
  • Maximum journey times of 12 hours for all equines being transported
  • Review of existing fireworks legislation and their impact on animal welfare, with a view to introducing further restrictions on their use and sale.  Public displays should be licensed by the relevant council
  • Introduce licencing and inspections of sanctuaries and rescue centres in England and Wales, based on the model operating in Scotland
  • Certification or licensing of any person who possesses an air weapon

The report highlights that National Equine Welfare Council members took in 186 horses, ponies and donkeys from struggling sanctuaries or rescue centres in 2019.

Findings from the British Veterinary Association revealed that almost one in five equine vets dealt with firework-related injuries to a horse in 2018.

Nic de Brauwere MRCVS, Chair of the National Equine Welfare Council and Head of Welfare at Redwings said:

“We call on the Government to make the most of this opportunity to create a new vision for welfare that really puts the animals at the centre. We want to see a strategy that accounts for more than just their basic needs but also focuses on those things that can improve their quality of life and wellbeing so they have a positive experience in all their dealings with us.”

Chris Sherwood, Chief Executive of the RSPCA, said:

“We are hoping to see big announcements for animal welfare this week and this year provides a once-in-a-generation opportunity to redefine our relationship with animals – for the benefit of us all.

“The Covid pandemic has laid bare the inextricable link between people, planet, animals, food and health. We are more aware than ever how the way we live our lives is impacting on climate change and biodiversity.

“Piecemeal legislation is no longer an option; we need the Government to provide a clear vision and direction for animal health and welfare through a cohesive and comprehensive new strategy. From right across the animal welfare sector, we have come together to amplify our voices on behalf of animals.”

Chris Burghes, CEO of Blue Cross, said:

“Blue Cross is pleased to work alongside such esteemed animal welfare organisations to amplify a voice for pets and legislation to protect them in the upcoming Queen’s Speech.

“The Queen’s Speech is a vital opportunity for the government to really set out their stall on their commitment to animal welfare and protection, a concern not only for charities but we know for the general public also.”

Chris Wainwright, Chief Executive, Brooke Action for Working Horses and Donkeys, said:

“We all have a role to play in how we live alongside and create a better life for animals. This includes working animals like horses, donkeys and mules, who provide a livelihood for so many people, and have some of the strongest bonds with their owners.

“It is absolutely vital that all animals are recognised as sentient beings, and that a rigorous approach to improving animal health and welfare is recognised not just for its benefit to them, but also for its connection to human health.”

Jeanette Allen, CEO of The Horse Trust, said:

“There is no doubt we are stronger with one voice and this incredible collaborative effort could effect very real change to government policy and future legislation that protects animals. The Horse Trust is very proud to have taken part and contributed our expertise.”

Sarah Jane Williamson, Chief Executive, Mare and Foal Sanctuary said:

“The legislation recommended in this paper would enable equine welfare organisations to intervene sooner and more strongly in an advisory and educational capacity, and local authorities to carry out enforcement interventions sooner, reducing the number of cases that become pernicious and costly to resolve through public prosecution.”

Lynn Cutress, CEO of Redwings, said:

“We have always claimed to be a nation of animal lovers and we know that by and large it’s still true, if only from the sheer number of letters received by our MPs on issues of equine and animal welfare from the public. That’s why it has been so crucial to see the animal welfare sector unite on this document, and it’s vital that we continue to work together to get it right for the animals that mean so much to us.”

Dr Ben Sturgeon, Director of Veterinary Services, SPANA (the Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad), said:

“This is a critical moment and it is vital that this opportunity to transform animal welfare isn’t missed.

“All animals deserve to be treated with respect and compassion. This includes working animals, such as donkeys, horses and camels, who play an essential role in communities, but all too often are neglected and overlooked. This has to change.

“Now is the time to take the steps that will ensure that the welfare of animals is protected and that they can live a life free from pain and suffering.”

The coalition stressed that to be successful, enforcement must be a statutory obligation under any legislation and furthermore the effectiveness of existing and new laws must be more robustly and regularly reviewed to ensure they are achieving their intentions.

The coalition comprises 50 organisations including: Animal Aid, Battersea, Blue Cross, Born Free, Bransby Horses, Brooke Action for Working Horses and Donkeys, Cats Protection, CFSG, Compassion in World Farming, Dogs Trust, Horse Trust, HSI, IFAW, Kennel Club, League Against Cruel Sports, Mare and Foal Sanctuary, PDSA, Redwings, RSPCA, SPANA, Scottish SPCA, World Horse Welfare, World Animal Protection

A full copy of the coalition’s Vision Paper can be read here.

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