Last week, Farming Minister Mark Spencer MP announced that the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill, which has been making its way through Parliament for nearly two years, would be dropped and the measures it contains introduced separately. Our animal welfare specialist, Rebecca Ironmonger, discusses what this might mean for farmers and meat producers.
The Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill was introduced to cover several new measures to address a number of concerns, including banning the export of live animals, strengthening measures against livestock worrying and puppy smuggling and banning the keeping of primates as pets. For many sheep farmers in particular, the Kept Animals Bill was to bring both benefits and challenges.
Mark Spencer has confirmed that the Government remains committed to banning live animal exports and bringing in new measures to tackle livestock worrying, but these will now measures will now have to be introduced as separate bills into Parliament. Whether this will delay or speed up the introduction of those measures, remains to be seen. What is clear however, is that there is less certainty about what exactly farmers and processers can expect going forwards.
In relation to sheep worrying, the Kept Animals Bill in its most recent form was to introduce new powers for the police to search and take samples where worrying had taken place, new court orders and higher fines where offenders responsible for dogs which attacked livestock were convicted and extending the scope of the definition of livestock worrying to include some farm tracks. These measures would be very welcome where sheep worrying remains a major issue which sheep farmers face every day. In March 2023, Rebecca Ironmonger discussed the current law on Sheep Worrying, which can be found here.
It is not yet known if all the original measures proposed will be reintroduced in any new parliamentary bill or when they will be introduced. The same can be said of the proposed ban on live animal exports.
The issue of banning live animal exports, as opposed to the measures to tackle sheep worrying, is more controversial and is seen by many in the meat industry as a challenge which could create serious issues for sheep farmers and the lamb supply chain in particular. However, animal welfare groups welcomed the decision by the Government to propose the ban. The statement by the Farming Minister confirms that the ban on live animal exports is still on the cards, so is likely to still be introduced.
If you experience issues with livestock worrying or any animal welfare issues when transporting animals, please get in touch with our recognised animal welfare and agriculture experts.