Our latest Veterinary Policy Research Foundation Newsletter is out! Here we share some updates and highlights from the last few months.
Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill
After Scotland passed a similar Bill in July 2020, the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act became law in England and Wales on the 29th April 2021. It increases the maximum sentence available for the most serious animal welfare offences from 6 months to five years. Lord Trees spoke at second reading and gave support to the Bill which brings the UK in line with Scotland and Northern Ireland, whilst also stressing that the power of the legislation is only as strong as our ability to enforce it.
Enforcement – Animal Welfare
No one state organisation has a statutory responsibility for animal welfare. Local authorities can appoint Inspectors, but this is a discretionary and not a legal duty. We also know that the costs to local authorities of enforcing The Animal Welfare Act are substantial. VPRF attended a roundtable meeting with RSPCA inspectorate, Local Government Animal Welfare Group, UK Centre for Animal Law (A-LAW) and the Police and identified key themes around penalties and the prosecution process.
Halal Assurance Scheme – Demonstration of Life
Along with others, Lord Trees and the VPRF have been involved in the fruition of a Halal Assurance Scheme – the Demonstration of Life Project. On Thursday 22nd April, the project was launched with attendees including Halal certification bodies, NFU, the FSA, AHDB, the BVA and the Minister of State for Defra, Lord Goldsmith. The Scheme will give assurance to Halal consumers in the UK and worldwide that sheep (and goats) stunned by the defined protocol fulfil the religious requirements of Halal – namely that an animal be alive (albeit in this case unconscious) at the time of killing. The protocol is based on a similar procedure which has been used in New Zealand very successfully for many years. Voluntary adoption of this protocol by abattoirs, will give UK sheep farmers the opportunity to exploit the international Halal sheep market and it will provide associated commercial opportunities for the participating abattoirs and certifying bodies. At a recent House of Commons International Trade Committee meeting, Greg Hands, Minister of State for Trade Policy at the Department for International Trade, noted that some of the UK Halal products were in strong demand for exports and emphasised the opportunities in this area.
The Agriculture Act
The Agriculture Act passed into law last year. We are continuing
to follow up on the commitment made in the Act to improve
animal health and welfare and the professions. We wrote to
George Freeman MP, Convenor of The Reform for Resilience
Commission noting the role of precision technology, including
genetics, in livestock and the role of ruminants in climate
change. Our comments will inform the Task Force on Innovation,
Growth and Regulatory Reform. Additionally, on the 16th March 2021, Lord Trees wrote to Neil Parish MP, Chair of the EFRA Committee on moving animal across borders, particularly drawing attention to the ‘Future of Small Abattoirs’ report, published last year.
We are continuing to work on issues affecting animals, animal trade and the veterinary profession, post-Brexit. We are in consultation with veterinary bodies on work-force shortages and keep up to date on the situation. When it came to our attention that the valuable day-old-chicks exports were negatively affected by post-Brexit UK-EU border controls, we wrote the Secretary of State, George Eustice, outlining the UKs crucial role in global poultry trade. We attend meetings including the Trade and Animal Welfare Coalition webinar, providing a response the UK Trade Policy and the Trade and Agriculture Commission’s recommendations. On 26th November 2020, Lord Trees contributed to the debate on UK-
Japan Trade agreement. He outlined the limitations of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act in allowing sufficient parliamentary scrutiny and also urged the Minister to elucidate details of the Government’s often-quoted commitment:
Jointly with APGAW, VPRF provides evidence-based briefings on animal welfare topics such as animals in science and sheep scab control policy in the UK. Lord Trees has chaired the first roundtable on reducing, refining and reusing further animals in science and we are taking this work forward this year.
One Health – United Against Rabies
Lord Trees continues to Chair the United Against Rabies Steering Group. The Steering Group is jointly formed from the tripartite, the OIE, the WHO and the FAO. It provides guidance and oversight to the three working groups made up of international scientists and stakeholders, who are tasked with delivering the goal of global rabies eradication by 2030. This work will continue throughout 2021.
One Health – Official Development Assistance
After a reduction in Official Development Assistance from 0.7 to 0.5% GDP, the budgets affected have recently been announced. Lord Trees and five other peers with health and research expertise wrote to the Prime Minister in April 2021, outlining the huge and devastating impact that the cuts are having on health intervention and research capacity in the UK and globally, as well as the reputational damage caused by the severity and speed of the cuts.
Animal Welfare and the Veterinary Profession – 2021
Going forward, the Queen’s Speech on the 11th May 2021 contains much to engage us at Westminster in the next few months. Additionally, we are scrutinising the Bill that aims to put animal sentience into UK law and getting to grips with the Professional Regulations Bill, which has implications for the future of the profession. We will follow the Environment Bill closely as it comes back into parliamentary business, including how it can better tackle the global health threat of Antimicrobial Resistance.