The government’s legislative agenda for the next year includes a potential boost to the pet trade via the rented sector and a ban on live animal exports, but very little sign of other previous commitments to animal welfare.
The King’s Speech included the reappearance of The Renters (Reform) Bill, which includes a clause to outlaw blanket bans on pets in rented accommodation. Under the Bill, landlords would not be able to refuse a tenant’s request to keep a pet without good reason, but they will be allowed to require insurance to cover any potential damage.
The Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Bill will ban the export of cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and horses for slaughter and fattening from Great Britain. The export of live animals from the UK has been suspended since December 2020, but the Bill will make this ban permanent and prevent any future exports.
The RSPCA welcomed the ban on live exports, an issue on which it had been campaigning for more than 50 years, but pointed out that the government’s previously-proposed Kept Animals Bill, which was subsequently scrapped by ministers, would have achieved the same goal along with 14 other previous animal welfare pledges not mentioned in the speech. These include specific measures to limit puppy smuggling and pet theft, a ban on importing dogs with cropped ears and on the use of shock collars.
David Bowles, head of public affairs at the RSPCA, said: “This is a historic day for animal welfare. After half a century of campaigning to see an end of live exports, we’re incredibly pleased that the UK Government has prioritised this – albeit as the only animal welfare issue taken forward in their programme.”
The British Veterinary Association (BVA) reacted in a similarly ambivalent way.
BVA President Anna Judson said: “Given this is likely to be the last Parliamentary session before a General Election, it’s disappointing that today’s King’s Speech announced so few measurers to tackle the pressing animal welfare issues we know the public care most about.
“Whilst it’s positive to see the existing stop on live animal exports for slaughter will now be made permanent, the Government needs to urgently turn its attention to strengthening rules on animal importation which are exposing the UK to the serious emerging diseases like Brucella canis.
“In addition, the Government must deliver on its manifesto commitment to close the legal loopholes enabling the import of animals who have been subject to cruel and unnecessary mutilations which are illegal in the UK, like cropping dogs’ ears.”