Lorraine Platt is Co-Founder Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation.
Animal welfare is an increasing concern amongst the general public, who frequently look to Government to take the lead in both maintaining and improving standards.
The Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation was established in 2016 to raise awareness on the lives of billions of animals reared on intensive farms around the world, and how this impacts upon animal welfare, the environment, and people’s health. The truth is that while progress is being made, we could be doing a lot more to improve animal welfare.
The Conservative manifesto promises to uphold the highest standards of farm animal welfare. It’s highly important that the welfare of farm animals is placed at the forefront of the Government’s plan for food and farming, along with its focus on productivity, competitiveness, and technology.
The impact that the Brexit decision will have for our food and farming is hugely uncertain. It is a priority that there is not a reduction in farm animal welfare standards at the expense of a drive for new profitable economic trade deals.
The UK’s farming policies were formed within the EU and we now have the power to lead our own farming policies to advance farm animal welfare, protect the environment, and promote healthier public diets to combat heart disease, diabetes and obesity.
The Government needs to prioritise ethical and sustainable farming measures, and move production methods away from intensive industrial production farms which negatively impact upon farm animal welfare, the environment, and public health.
Each year around 70 billion animals are farmed for meat, milk and eggs worldwide (2.3 billion in the EU) with about 25,000 slaughtered every minute, and the conditions under which the animals are raised vary significantly.
There is increasing support for mandatory CCTV in all slaughterhouses: Conservative MP Henry Smith, Co-Chairman of the All Party Group for Animal Welfare in the House of Commons launched a debate calling for it, and Philip Hollobone MP led a Westminster Hall debate on non-stun slaughter which was well supported by MPs. The debate was triggered by 115,000 public signatures.
We call on the Government for meat to be labelled with method of slaughter so consumers can make an informed choice. We further urge for the labelling of method of production so consumers know if they are buying intensively produced meat or not.
Another Conservative MP, Anne Main, recently introduced a Bill calling for better labelling to back British Farmers. During her speech in parliament, she said: ‘it is not right or fair that other European countries can dodge animal welfare issues, can hide anonymously behind inadequate labelling and at the same time undercut our farming industry.’
Anne made the claims after it was found that six EU countries were still non-compliant with key animal welfare measures.
It is time to end cages for hens and farrowing crates for pigs. In the UK, each year 44 per cent of laying hens are caged and of 500,000 sows 55 percent are caged. The farrowing crate is a small metal cage in which pregnant sows are confined for weeks on end, usually from a week before giving birth until their piglets are weaned three to four weeks later.
As the UK will soon no longer be bound by the EU’s free trade rules, the Government should ban the live export trade which over the years has caused immense suffering to our animals.
Thousands of UK sheep are exported each year on long journeys to France. UK calves are also exported – and travel as far afield as Spain, despite the fact that scientific research shows that young calves suffer greatly during long journeys.
Craig Mackinlay introduced a Bill this year to change the law to allow Councils to ban the practice of live animal exports from ports they own.
The global day of action takes place on August 29th, where campaigners from at least 30 countries will be taking action against long distance animal transport, to make the message clear: ‘Animals Are Not Freight’. The day marks the 20th anniversary of the biggest live export disaster when more than 67,000 sheep died as the ship carrying them burned.
Long-distance live animal transports can cause immense suffering. Overcrowding will mean that some cannot lie down at all, while those who do may be injured or trampled to death. Others endure long journeys with legs trapped and injured, or painfully stooping as they are not given sufficient headroom.
They can be in transit for days, suffering extremes of temperature and often without sufficient food, water or rest and can be exhausted and dehydrated. Many die as a result. Animals are transported in both blistering heat and freezing conditions.
Water may not be provided throughout these long journeys. In particular, when animals are exported from Europe to countries outside the EU they leave behind them all the legal protection they once received.
We believe animals should be slaughtered as close as possible to their place of birth and live transports to be replaced by a trade in meat.
We urge the Government to introduce a Bill in Parliament to ban live exports so that the ban is ready to come into force on the day that the UK leaves the EU. We want people to speak up for the voiceless and tell the world: ‘Animals Are Not Freight’.