Charities unite to urge Government to act on welfare — but concerns about Hunting Act point *H&H Plus*

  • The group of leading welfare charities has created a report including 40 recommendations to benefit animal welfare. H&H finds out more, including views on a recommendation to strengthen the Hunting Act

    FURTHER restrictions on firework use, licensing of sanctuaries and regulation of equestrian premises are among recommendations of a coalition urging the Government to act on animal welfare.

    In an “unprecedented” move, 50 welfare charities have united in calls for lawmakers not to waste a “once-in-a-generation opportunity to redefine our relationship with animals through a new animal health and welfare strategy”.

    The group, which includes the Horse Trust, World Horse Welfare and Redwings, has published a report entitled Act now for Animals, which sets out its priorities for creating a society that “rebalances” the way we live and work with animals.

    The paper, which states “no animal left behind”, sets out 40 recommendations. The hope is that it will help the Government create a new animal welfare strategy; the last such plan is 17 years old and the landscape has changed significantly in that time, bringing “new and urgent challenges”.

    A key recommendation is that the new Government animal sentience committee must have “real teeth”, be independently chaired, comprise leading welfare experts and have the ability to “meaningfully hold ministers to account”.

    Brooke Action for Working Horses and Donkeys CEO Chris Wainwright said: “We all have a role to play in how we live alongside and create a better life for animals.

    “It is absolutely vital that all animals are recognised as sentient beings, and that a rigorous approach to improving animal health and welfare is recognised not just for its benefit to them, but also for its connection to human health.”

    Another recommendation is to ensure equine identification is “enforced effectively for the first time in 12 years”, by introducing a statutory obligation to enforce rules, requiring registration of equine premises and making both owner and keeper of a horse responsible for keeping the Government’s digital equine database up to date.

    World Horse Welfare CEO Roly Owers said: “We are fast entering the last chance saloon to create a frictionless, digitised system for equine identification, something we have been highlighting for nearly a decade. This is a fundamental requirement for all other equine welfare legislation to work and we now finally have the opportunity to make this happen, if Government shows the political will.

    “An effective equine ID system is also inextricably linked to the other vital piece of the jigsaw: effective enforcement, and this too will need the political will to ensure a realistic allocation of resources for local authorities to fulfil this role.”

    The report highlights the fact National Equine Welfare Council members took in 186 equids from struggling sanctuaries or rescue centres in 2019, and that almost one in five equine vets dealt with firework-related injuries to a horse in 2018. Two recommendations are to introduce licensing and inspections of all sanctuaries in England and Wales, and to review fireworks legislation and fireworks’ impact on animal welfare, with a view to introducing further restrictions on use and sale.

    Horse Trust CEO Jeanette Allen said: “There is no doubt we are stronger with one voice and this incredible collaborative effort could affect very real change to Government policy and future legislation that protects animals. The Horse Trust is very proud to have taken part and contributed our expertise.”

    The report also recommends banning live export of horses for slaughter or fattening, and introducing a 12-hour journey limit for horses.

    The final recommendation is for the Government to ensure that enforcement is a statutory obligation in any new laws, as “legislation is a glorified and costly piece of paper without enforcement, and a wasted piece of paper if it doesn’t deliver its objectives”.

    Hunting concerns

    CONCERNS have been raised about one section of the report put to the Government (see above).

    One of the 50 groups involved in the coalition is the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) – and one recommendation is headed “strengthening the Hunting Act”.

    The section states that trail hunting “provides cover for illegal hunting” and that “fox hunting is opposed by 85% of the public”, referring to a LACS-commissioned poll of 2,003 people.

    The report says trail-hunting should be banned on Government-owned land, and an offence of recklessly hunting a wild animal should be introduced, with prison sentences and a liability provision to cover employers and landowners.

    A Countryside Alliance spokesman told H&H: “LACS has spent the last 18 years making ridiculous claims about hunting, yet nearly every time it makes allegations to the police or a court, they are found to be false. There have been hundreds of thousands of days’ legal trail hunting since the Hunting Act came into force and only a handful of convictions relating to registered hunts.

    “The figures presented by LACS cannot be taken at face value since they were compiled from LACS’ own ‘animal crimewatch service’, which often consists of dubious reports from alleged members of the public, as well as spurious evidence gathered from social media. Time and time again, this evidence is proven to paint a false picture of reality and lacks any appropriate context.”

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