The UK government has dropped a long-promised bill aimed at banning live animal exports for fattening and slaughter and the keeping of primates as pets, as well as introducing powers to tackle puppy smuggling. Environment Minister Mark Spencer said measures in the Kept Animal Bill would now be delivered in different ways, but animal protection organisations are sceptical and are condemning the government’s decision.
The Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill was first introduced in June 2021 and was announced again in the Queen’s Speech last year. It covered several Conservative 2019 manifesto commitments on animal issues, which now the government claims would honour individually before the next election, rather than in one piece of legislation.
Mr Spencer said he had to scrap the bill because Labour was going “to play political games”, possibly referring to the possibility that it would be forced into a vote on hunting — which the government wants to avoid — but Labour has denied that is the case. Labour does back strengthening the Hunting Act 2004 ban but said it had “no plans” to add any such amendment to this bill.
Claire Bass, a senior director at the Humane Society International/UK, said to the BBC that the bill “needed only a few more hours in the Commons to succeed, so parliamentary time is clearly not the real issue here…The real reason, Whitehall sources tell us, that the bill has been dropped is because of concerns that it could act as a vehicle for uncomfortable debates that the government does not want held on polarising issues such as hunting with dogs.”
The RSPCA said: “We are frustrated and disappointed that, despite overwhelming public support, the government has delayed and delayed and has now broken up the bill, leading to yet more uncertainty and lost time. While politicians dither, animals suffer.”