Philip Lymbery | Historic Progress For Animals Announced
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Historic Progress For Animals Announced

This week has been an historic moment for animal welfare in the UK with plans for key reforms announced by government, including legal recognition of animal sentience and a ban on live exports. These, and a suite of other measures, were outlined first in the Queen’s Speech and then in a Defra Action Plan. In total, 40 measures have been unveiled covering farmed, wild and companion animals, which together add up to the biggest welfare shake-up in a generation.

Plans are only as good as the implementation, of course, and Compassion will press hard to ensure government intentions become law. The reforms will be introduced as a series of Bills, with the one recognising animal sentience already having been introduced to the House of Lords. The Bill provides legal recognition that vertebrate animals are sentient beings and intends assurance that their ability to suffer pain and experience joy, if we let them, will be taken into account in future government policies. Legal recognition of animals as sentient creatures has long been a cornerstone of our work at Compassion. Indeed, it was our founder, Peter Roberts, who first launched the idea in the 1980s. The battle was first won in the European Union in 1997 when legal recognition was attached as a protocol and then later an article in the EU treaty. As the recognition was in the EU treaty rather than a specific law, it wasn’t transposed into British legislation post-Brexit. The government’s new Bill proposes to rectify the situation.

Sow in crate | Credit: Compassion in World Farming

Another of our longstanding campaigns has been for a ban on the live export trade for slaughter and fattening. Always cruel and unnecessary, this trade has continued down the decades despite overwhelming public opposition. Quite why is a mystery, given the trade’s insignificance to the farming industry when set against overall meat exports.

It is a hugely welcome moment then that the UK government now proposes to end this indefensible trade once and for all. The proposal, of course, comes soon after our own Judicial Review of the Scottish Government over calf exports.

It is also tremendously important that these reforms are quickly followed with bans on other indefensible factory farm practices, including the keeping of mother pigs and chickens in cages.

Hens in barren battery cages | Credit: Compassion in World Farming

Factory farming is finally being recognised more widely for what it is – a cruel and deeply damaging form of farming that only makes worse the climate, nature and pandemic emergencies now facing society.

What is crucial now is that Parliament and the UK government takes this opportunity to not only make these key reforms, but also to push on and end all forms of factory farming.

Thank you to everyone who has marched through the streets, written letters, signed petitions, switched their eating habits and got stories in the media calling for these reforms. It is testimony to your efforts over decades.

Whilst celebrating these hugely welcome plans, it is more important than ever before that we keep up the pressure until every last animal is free from the suffering of factory farming.