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1 February 2018 14:08:44 |Animal Health,Government,News

Government has 'failed' on draft Animal Welfare Bill, EFRA says

Neil Parish, chairman of the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) committee

Neil Parish, chairman of the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) committee

The government has "failed" to consider the full implications of the draft Animal Welfare Bill, according to a Committee scrutinising it.
On Thursday (1 February) the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee published its report, ‘Pre Legislative Scrutiny of the draft Animal Welfare Bill.’
The Committee has commented on the draft Bill before its introduction to Parliament and alongside a public consultation which closed on 31 January.
The draft Bill was published shortly before Christmas by Defra Secretary Michael Gove in response to concerns that the legal duty to have regard to animal welfare when making and implementing policy would be lost when the UK leaves the EU.
However, the Committee recommends that the Government introduces a “separate piece of legislation on animal sentience which allows the problematic concepts in the existing Clause 1 to be better defined”.
Clause 1 of the Bill surrounds the recognition of animal sentience. As strong advocates of the need for a five-year maximum sentence for animal cruelty, EFRA worry that the "vagueness and ambiguity" of the purpose and meaning of Clause 1 will "impede and delay" the introduction of this measure.

'Deserve better'
The report notes that: “Animals deserve better than to be treated in a cavalier fashion yet the impression given to us is one of haste. It appears that this draft Bill has been presented to the public - and Parliament - in a far from finished state.”
Neil Parish MP, Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, said the government has "failed" to consider the full implications of the Bill before publishing it.
“The Bill has been rushed and the legislation has suffered as a result”, Mr Parish explained.
“The UK urgently needs a new law focused on animal sentience but this law must be properly thought through and worked out. This legislation is not that”.
'Wrong way'
Rural organisation the Countryside Alliance agrees with the EFRA Committee, and says the Bill is the "wrong way" of addressing the "right issues".

Countryside Alliance’s Chief Executive Tim Bonner commented: “If it were passed in its current form every crank with a few thousand pounds to spare would have the ability to drag the Government through the courts, requiring Ministers to prove that they have given enough consideration to animal welfare.
“The draft Bill would also provide a vehicle for campaigners to pursue practically every item on the animal rights agenda.”
The Countryside Alliance has raised concerns that a draft Animal Welfare Bill could be turned from a bill to protect animal welfare to one which promotes animal rights.
Mr Bonner continued: “The Government will attract broad support if it brings forward logical provisions to increase sentences for serious acts of animal cruelty, and to ensure proper consideration of animal welfare in policy development.
“What is quite clear, however, is that there is virtually no support for addressing these issues by means of this draft Bill.”
Animal welfare charity the RSPCA said it welcomes the EFRA report, but said the legislation must be passed before Brexit.
RSPCA Head of of Public Affairs David Bowles, said: “The RSPCA recommended that Clause 1 of the Animal Welfare Bill relating to animal sentience was separated from a Bill to introduce tougher sentencing to prevent delay and confusion.
“We are pleased that the Committee agree with us and have called for two separate pieces of legislation. However in a crowded legislative environment, the sentience legislation must be progressed before Brexit in March 2019.”


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