With the first Winter General Election in over 40 years taking place this month, we decided to take a look at some of the key policy pledges the main parties have made on animal welfare.
The Labour Party were the first to publish its Animal Welfare policies for this election with its 50 point Animal Welfare Manifesto.
In it, the party states its commitment to maintaining the highest level of care for domestic animals and animals in captivity. The party is exploring further measures to tackle puppy smuggling, banning the use of shock collars and expanding microchipping to cats.
Labour Party's 2019 Animal Welfare Manifesto
If elected to government, the party has also pledged that it will:
- Appoint an independent Animal Welfare Commissioner
- Gradually phase out animal testing
- Ban trophy hunters from selling their spoils in the UK
- Improve the right of renters to keep pets
- Conduct a review into the use of whips on race horses by jockeys
- Prohibit the sale and use of snares and glue traps, which are used to catch animals
For Dogs and Cats
- Take increased measures to tackle puppy smuggling working with the Dogs Trust and other appropriate charities on the best and quickest way to achieve this.
- Ban the use of animal shock collars, including sale and importation
- Expand mandatory microchipping to cats
- Expand the reporting of motor accidents beyond livestock and dogs to include cats
- Strengthen Section 1 of the ‘Dangerous Dogs Act’
The manifesto was drafted and finalised following consulatation with party members, animal rights groups and the public. Sue Hayman MP, The shadow environment secretary, said the party wanted to: "bring Britain’s animal welfare policy into the 21st century” and protect animals both in the UK and around the world."
We are still waiting for policy announcements from the other main political parties in anticipation of a General Election date being called but in 2017 we did review each party's manifesto on animal welfare.
What will the 2019 General Election mean for animals?
We reviewed the manifestos of all the major parties to find out.
Labour has dedicated pages 93 and 94 of its manifesto to the environment and animal welfare.
The Party promises to invest in rural and coastal communities, as well as introducing a Clean Air Act, in order to improve environments for animals. It also pledges to reduce ocean waste to protect fish stocks and marine wildlife.
On top of this, Labour says it will prohibit insecticides that can harm bees.
Labour wants to increase the maximum sentence for those convicted of animal cruelty and will try to find ways to ensure better enforcement with regards to animal husbandry.
Jeremy Corbyn says his Party will prohibit the third-party sale of puppies and will introduce a total ban ivory trading, at present, it's legal to trade ivory items produced before 1947.
Labour supports the ban of wild animals in circuses. It also says it will stop the badger cull and maintain the bans on fox hunting, deer hunting and hare coursing.
The Conservative Party says it will take action to improve animal welfare by implementing reforms on pet sales and licensing and making CCTV in abattoirs compulsory.
Theresa May controversially said the Party wants to offer a free vote to allow parliament to decide on the Hunting Act. If MPs vote to repeal it, fox hunting may once again become legal.
The Conservative Party have published more details on their website about their animal welfare policies and how they're expanding animal rights in the UK.
Liberal Democrat Party
The Liberal Democrats manifesto says they will introduce stronger penalties for animal cruelty offences by increasing the maximum sentencing from six months to five years.
The Party says it will clamp down on the illegal importation of pets by introducing identification requirements for online sales. It also aims to cut down on the use of animals in scientific experimentation.
The Liberal Democrats say they will suspend the use of potentially harmful insecticides until it has been proven their use in agriculture doesn't harm bees.
The Party also says it will update animal welfare codes in order to improve standards of animal health and welfare in agriculture, as well as ensuring imported meat meets the required standards of animal welfare. It also wants to ban caged hens.
The Liberal Democrats pledge to provide resources internationally to take action to tackle the illegal trade in ivory, fish and other wildlife.
The Green Party has a range of policies in its manifesto relating to the welfare of animals and the environment. The party wants to introduce an Environmental Protection Act that will protect biodiversity and ensure animal rights by promoting sustainable farming.
It wants to protect marine areas around the British coast more effectively and calls for "tough action" to reduce plastic and other waste. Any new fisheries legislation will have to contain a requirement to fish at a level that allows fish stocks to recover. It aims to implement a Blue New Deal to help protect and regenerate coastal communities.
The Party also wants to make sure the Brexit deal includes provisions to protect animal welfare.
Elsewhere on the Green Party website, there's an extensive section on animal rights, the long-term aim of which is "to eliminate the wholesale exploitation of other species".
The Party aims to phase out factory farming and will work to reduce the fear, pain and suffering of farm animals, by ensuring they are slaughtered humanely, limiting the live transport of animals, ensuring that imported animals only come from countries with adequate animal welfare standards and make CCTV mandatory in abattoirs.
It will also ensure that the fur farming ban in the UK stays in place and any import, export or sale of fur will be prohibited, as well as the importation of ivory, reptile skins and whale oil.
It also wants to ban all experimentation and research that harms animals.
Puppy farming would be banned under the Green Party, and a national register for those convicted of animal abuse would be created. The Party is opposed to any killing or harming of animals for sport or leisure and will prohibit hunting with hounds, shooting, snaring, coursing and any other methods of hunting.
It will also end the use of animals in circuses, ban zoos unless they are formed for the benefit of the animals in them, and ban the use of whips in horse racing.
The Green Party's website contains a wealth of other information regarding its stance on animal welfare.
Animal Welfare Party
Unsurprisingly, the Animal Welfare Party has a host of policies aimed at improving the welfare of animals.
The Party intends to redirect EU subsidies away from livestock and fisheries farming, and into plant-based agriculture, and phase out any farming practices that have negative welfare consequences for animals.
The Animal Welfare Party also wants to stop live animal exporting and reduce journey times for animals travelling to slaughter within the UK. It pledges to end all slaughter without prior stunning and put CCTV cameras in all abattoirs.
The party also wants to increase the penalty for those convicted of animal abuse, though it doesn't specify how high it will increase the maximum penalty. It also wants to phase out animal experimentation by pledging funds for alternative testing.
Finally, it promises to ban puppy farms and the sale of animals in retail stores and wants all products clearly labelled with information pertaining to animal welfare.
Plaid Cymru wants to create an Animal Abuse Register for Wales and create a new Wildlife Act for the country in order to update and consolidate existing Welsh legislation. It also suggests that it would support a ban on wild animals in circuses and regulate the use of snares.
The party doesn't specify what other measures it will take to protect animal welfare.
Scottish National Party
The Scottish National Party has said it will introduce tougher maximum penalties for those who commit crimes against wildlife and will consider new sentencing guidelines for those who commit these offences.
The party also says it wants to set up a Wildlife Crime Investigation Unit as part of the police and review the outcome of its consultation on tail docking. This is the removal of a part of an animal's tail, usually for cosmetic reasons.
It also says it will legislate to provide the "necessary level of protection for foxes and other wild animals" while allowing for humane control of these animals if need be.
Finally, they want to ban the use of wild animals in circuses and review pet welfare, including the issuing of electric dog collars.
What about Sinn Fein, the Democratic Unionist Party and UKIP?
UKIP hasn't released its manifesto for the 2017 election yet. However, in 2015, they wanted to introduce tougher sentences for those convicted of animal cruelty and wanted to minimise the use of animals in scientific testing.
Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party, on the other hand, have very little in their manifestos relating to animal welfare. Their mention of animals generally concerns making sure fisheries are maintained and adequately supported.
What did the 2015 General Election manifestos mean for animals? Check out what we wrote back then...
1. Dogs & Cats
The Green Party has by far the most comprehensive set of proposals affecting dogs and cats. Pages 16 & 17 of their manifesto set out measures to protect dogs' welfare and regulate the pet trade. These include:
- Updating laws on selling animals, particularly around online advertising
- Introducing mandatory licensing of pet breeders
- Introducing controls on breeding which creates "exaggerated characteristics likely to cause suffering", such as brachycephaly
- Ending puppy farming and the use of electric shock collars
- Taking more action on dog fighting
The Green Party also proposes to increase protection for greyhounds through a formal review of greyhound racing, and to end the use of dogs and cats in non-medical experiments and military training. Full details are in their separate Animal Manifesto.
Echoing The Greens, The Liberal Democrats promise to "review the rules surrounding the sale of pets to ensure they promote responsible breeding". Meanwhile, Labour offers a broad pledge to "improve the protection of dogs and cats" with more detail in a separate mini manifesto on animals. Finally, UKIP focuses on tougher jail sentences for people convicted of animal cruelty.
Credit here to The Dogs Trust, whose 2015 General Election Dog Manifesto seems to have been influential on Labour, The Greens, and The Liberal Democrats.
Dogs Trust wants to see a complete review of all dog related legislation. To find out why, read our dog manifesto https://t.co/XbXE2i7i8f— Dogs Trust PA (@DT_Pawlitical) April 7, 2015
2. Exotic Pets
The Green Party would ban the import of "exotic pets" and make it illegal to keep monkeys as household pets.
The technical definition of an "exotic pet" is any animal that is not native to the Britsh Isles (including hamsters and rabbits); but it isn't clear whether the import ban would extend to all animals meeting this definition.
Contrary to some reports, the Greens are not proposing to ban keeping pet rabbits in hutches - their proposals on hen and rabbit cages relate to farming.
3. Wild Animals
All the main parties are pledging support for continued action to curb the international wildlife trade and wildlife crime - particularly opposing poaching of rhinos, elephants, and tigers.
Similarly, all parties (apart from The Liberal Democrats & UKIP) are proposing a ban on wild animals in circuses.
The Green Party would review Horse Racing and end the use of the whip.
5. The Badger Cull
Both Labour and The Greens would end the "ineffective and cruel" badger cull.
6. Hunting, Shooting, and Fishing
The Conservatives pledge to protect hunting, shooting, and fishing, and will hold a free vote on overturning the Hunting Act (which banned fox hunting in 2004).
Labour, by contrast, would defend the hunting ban, while The Greens would extend it to cover all hunting of animals for sport - including grouse shooting.
7. Animal Research & Testing
The Conservatives say they will "encourage other countries to follow the EU's lead in banning animal testing for cosmetics, and work to accelerate the global development and take-up of alternatives to animal testing", while The Liberal Democrats and UKIP would both seek to minimise the use of animals in scientific experiments.
The Greens go further still, arguing for an end to all animal experiments and increased funding for non-animal research methods.
What about the SNP and Plaid Cymru?
Responsibility for animal welfare in Scotland is devolved to the Scottish Parliament where the SNP is in government, but The SNP promises support for action in Westminster to end the ivory trade and protect endangered species like polar bears and bluefin tuna.
Plaid Cymru's only comments about animals are that they will "support the introduction of a
European-level Animal Welfare Commissioner" and "support adoption at all government levels of the new and comprehensive Animal Welfare law to end animal cruelty".
Why aren't policies about animals in farming included in this review?
These have received comprehensive mainstream press coverage elsewhere - for example, in the Rural Affairs section of the BBC's Policy Guide.