Nigel Evans, MP for the Ribble Valley, has welcomed Michael Gove’s comments on improving animal welfare in the UK. The Environment Secretary said that opportunities spawning from Brexit would help combat certain problems with animal welfare, such as puppy smuggling and announced a new draft bill.
Last month, Mr Gove was forced to provide a written statement defending the Government’s decision to vote against Amendment 30 of the EU Withdrawal Bill. Several media outlets and public figures later apologised for wrongly reporting that those who voted against the amendment “have voted that animals can't feel pain”. In his statement, Mr Gove reiterated that the Government did not vote against animal sentience, rather they voted against a piece of current EU law and EU law does not provide the protections animals need and deserve, the Withdrawal Bill was not the place to address this particular issue.
Speaking from Westminster, Mr Evans said:
“The vote against Amendment 30 was blown completely out of proportion, before giving anybody the opportunity to explain why they voted against it, the media had already reached their own incorrect conclusions – I am glad they have apologised.
This Government obviously wants to enshrine animal sentience into UK law, but amendment 30 was merely a declaratory statement and only applies to a small number of policy areas and to EU policy, not domestic policy. It allows for practices currently across Europe, which I believe should end, like puppy farming and smuggling, which my constituents have raised concerns about.”
Michael Gove’s draft bill aims to cement the UK’s position as a global leader on animal welfare by; recognising that animals are sentient beings and enshrining this in UK law; increasing the maximum prison sentence for animal cruelty tenfold, from six months to five years; allowing courts to retain the ability to hand out unlimited fines and ban offenders from owning animals in future.
This commitment comes in addition to several announcements protecting animal welfare and marine-life, such as legislation to ban microbeads, installing CCTV into every slaughterhouse in the UK and taking action to ban ivory.
Welcoming the draft bill, Mr Evans said:
“We have the opportunity to tackle discrepancies in animal welfare legislation once we leave the European Union. I am pleased of the lasting legacy this Government is leaving on these important issues, for example, we have been praised for having some of the strictest laws on the ivory trade and microbeads - we are a nation of animal lovers, so we will make Brexit work not just for people in all parts of our United Kingdom, but for the animals we love and cherish too.”