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Where We Stand

Animal Welfare Plan

Our Plan for Animal Welfare

From bringing forward the Hunting Act to protecting the treatment of domestic animals under the Animal Welfare Act, Labour has always placed the welfare of animals high on the policy agenda. Here’s our plan for animal welfare.


Labour is the party of animal welfare. From bringing forward the landmark Hunting Act to protecting the treatment of domestic animals under the Animal Welfare Act, Labour has always placed the welfare of animals high on the policy agenda. At a European level, Labour secured better welfare standards for battery hens and chickens and tightened the rules on the transport of live animals. It is a record Labour is rightly proud of.

However, we cannot allow hard-won progress to be undone. We know that Labour must be at the forefront of driving through the next phase of progress in the journey towards better animal welfare standards.

Just last year the Prime Minister Theresa May openly declared her support for fox hunting and to bring back a free vote on the matter. Last year almost 20,000 badgers were killed across England in the largest destruction of a protected species in living memory, whilst the most recent RSPB Birdcrime Report showed that for the first time in thirty years, not one prosecution took place for raptor persecution.

Never has it been more pressing to set an ambitious agenda on animal welfare than now. Labour fought for animal sentience to be part of the EU Withdrawal Bill but this was voted down by the Government despite Michael Gove going on record to say that he would support it just months earlier. Instead, we now have a rushed and haphazard Animal Sentience Bill which, according to the Environment and Rural Affairs Select Committee, has failed to consider the full implications of the policy. With new trade deals on the horizon and the UK no longer subject to EU-wide rules on animal welfare, we must ensure that we have a comprehensive legislative agenda in place to make sure that the UK has equal and better animal rights across the world.

This suite of policies on animal welfare seeks to build upon the long-standing leadership of the Labour Party on the issue of animal welfare. We are seeking views on measures that will underpin the next phase of animal welfare legislation under the next Labour government. Our approach will not be one of half measures and backtracking, based on ‘campaign of the month’ issues. One of our key proposals that we are seeking feedback on is the appointment of an Animal Welfare Commissioner to ensure that government policy across Whitehall is continually informed and underpinned by the latest scientific evidence on animal sentience and best practice in animal welfare.

Our vision is one where no animal is made to suffer unnecessary pain and degradation and where we continue to drive up standards and practice in line with the most recent advances and understanding.

We hope you will take the time to input into this consultation and help us develop the next phase of Labour’s animal welfare agenda.

Sue Hayman MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Strengthening animal welfare in UK law
Domestic Pets
Factory farming and slaughterhouses
Wild Animals
Animals in sport
Animals used in research
Appointment of an Animal Welfare Commissioner

Strengthening animal welfare in UK law

Labour supports the full transposition of protections for animals from EU to UK law. We would seek to build upon existing standards to ensure that the law on animal welfare continues to reflect the latest scientific evidence in relation to animal sentience and how animals experience pain and suffering.

  • Enshrine the principle of animal sentience in law, covering all policy areas to prevent practices that expose animals to cruel and degrading treatment.
  • Expand the definition of animal to include decapod crustaceans (for example lobsters) and cephalopods (for example squid) in line with other countries including Norway, New Zealand and Switzerland.
  • Increase maximum sentences for those convicted of animal cruelty.
  • Higher animal welfare standards both in the mandatory and ‘best practice’ levels of Government Buying Standards

Domestic Pets

Labour is committed to promoting the highest level of care for domestic animals and animals in captivity. While organisations such as the PDSA provide veterinary assistance to those on income support, too often pet care is unaffordable and inaccessible to those on low incomes. Recognising that currently for the majority of people under 30, buying a home is sadly less and less of an affordable option, Labour would seek to improve the rights of renters to own pets that do not cause a nuisance. We will explore further measures to tackle puppy smuggling, seek to drive up animal welfare standards in zoos and ban the use of shock collars.

  • Prohibit the third party sale of puppies. All puppies will need to be sold with their mother on site.
  • Take increased measures to tackle puppy smuggling
    • Reintroduction of rabies testing before entry into the UK
    • Increase post rabies test period to three months
    • Introduce a microchip database and record microchip numbers upon entry
  • Ban the use of animal shock collars, including sale and importation.
  • Improve accessibility to vets for those on low incomes/receiving financial support, working with organisations to explore how access to affordable vet care can be expanded.
  • Require motorists to report accidents where an animal has been injured.
  • Expand mandatory microchipping to cats.
  • Phase in restrictions on pet primates.
  • Raise the penalty for dog-fighting to three years in line with Northern Ireland.
  • Consult with landlords and tenants on the ability for tenants to keep pets as default unless there is evidence that the animal is causing a nuisance.
  • Work with care home providers and advocate groups to explore the potential for elderly and disabled people who move into care homes to be able to keep their pets.
  • Establish a full-time, independent zoo inspectorate to draw up revised standards of animal welfare in the UK’s zoos to ensure consistency in licensing and inspection.

Factory farming and slaughterhouses

The majority of British farmers take pride in their high levels of animal welfare. However, we have an obligation to ensure that best practice is adopted right across the board in farming and that outdated and cruel practices are phased out or removed completely. Several high profile instances that have been exposed through CCTV have revealed poor practices and have raised questions about culture and practice in some slaughterhouses.

Labour is committed to promoting best practice in cruelty-free animal husbandry and to ensuring better enforcement of agreed standards. Labour will seek to end the ‘cage age’ of outdated farming practices that cause animals distress and restrict natural behaviour. Our steer on the direction of travel on farm animals will aim to provide the clarity to farmers to invest in higher animal welfare standards in the long term.

  • Ban live exports for slaughter or fattening. This would include an exemption for breeding animals providing provision is in place ensuring they are transported under genuinely high welfare standards. This would also include an exemption for livestock transported across the Northern Ireland border.
  • Mandatory labelling of meat, both domestic and imported. This would include details on country of origin, method of production and method of slaughter (stun or non-stun).
  • Total ban on imports of Foie Gras so as to restrict the market for this cruel and inhumane product.
  • Issue new guidance to end the use of antibiotics for routine, preventative purposes with farm animals. Anti-microbial resistance is becoming an increasing problem leading to antibiotics being less effective.
  • Introduce mandatory CCTV in all slaughterhouses, including where horses are slaughtered, and make this footage available to the Food Standards Agency and/or other government departments where there is a clear case to.
  • Introduce a formal whistle blowing procedure through the Food Standards Agency to enable employees to report bad behaviour and practice within abattoirs.
  • Review of training and standards within slaughterhouses.
  • Increased accountability of poor employment and management practices that drive down working culture.
  • Introduce phased ban on sow farrowing crates with a reasonable phase-out period, replacing with safe, free-farrowing systems.
  • End use of cages on British farms.
  • Consultation on the expansion of ‘megafarms’ to detail their effects on animal welfare standards. The recent increase in industrialised farming under this Conservative government poses serious questions in relation to animal welfare post-Brexit.
  • Design post-Brexit farm subsidies to move away from intensive factory farming and bad environmental practices.

Wild Animals

Labour is clear that our animal welfare obligations go beyond domesticated animals. Unlike the Conservatives who have championed fox hunting and last year gave the green light to the highest ever number of badgers being killed across England, Labour are exploring ways to further enhancing the Hunting Act and bringing forward a ban on the badger cull. We will seek to promote high standards with regards to game shoots, tackle criminality, and promote sustainability.

Although many retailers now refuse to stock real fur, it is still sold in the UK. With no legal requirement for fur to be labelled as real, consumers can be misled into buying real fur, believing it to be fake. Today whales, dolphins and other marine animals face a variety of man-made threats including hunting, ship strikes, chemical pollution, entanglement in fishing gear and issues arising from climate change.

  • Enhance and strengthen the Hunting Act, closing loopholes that allow for illegal hunting of foxes and hares.
  • End the badger cull.
  • Make illegal hunting and all wildlife crime a reportable offence.
  • Ban wild animals in circuses.
  • Introduce and enforce a total ban on ivory trading.
  • Ban intensive rearing of game birds for shooting.
  • Tackle the illegal wildlife trade and clamp down on trophy hunting. Ending the import of wild animal trophies from species that are classified by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature as critically endangered. Expand this ban to species listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
  • Increase penalties for criminal behaviour as well as improve enforcement and prosecution rates for the persecution of birds of prey.
  • Tackle the trade in fur by requiring shops to prominently label items containing real fur and phase in a ban on all fur imports.
  • Introduce a ‘Blue Belt’ to protect and enhance our marine environment around the UK and overseas territories.
  • We will consult on the creation of National Marine Parks.
  • Embed and enhance in policy the responsibility for farmers to conserve, enhance and create safe habitats for birds and animals during the breeding season, and encourage the growth of wildflowers.

Animals in sport

The lack of transparency around greyhounds after they are no longer fit for racing means that we anecdotally hear of many cases where healthy animals are often needlessly destroyed. Labour would seek to improve practice and animal welfare conditions of animals in sport.

  • Issue best practice on responsible ownership, specifically for animals in sport.
  • Introduce better mechanisms to trace ownership.
  • Implement a centralised database to record what happens to greyhounds after they are no longer fit to race.

Animals used in research

Testing practices on products have improved and advanced greatly over recent years. Labour is concerned by the lack of transparency with regard to project license applications and the continued permissibility of ‘severe’ suffering as defined in UK legislation. Labour is proposing a comprehensive review of animal testing with a view to improving practice, limiting animal suffering and increasing transparency.

  • Commit to ending within an achievable timeframe, the permitting of ‘severe’ suffering as defined in UK legislation.
  • Commit to a stringent review of defined areas in regulatory testing, with the aim of identifying and eliminating avoidable tests.
  • Commit to a ban on the export of animals for use in research unless with specific consent from the Home Office consent where there would otherwise be greater welfare detriment.
  • Make animal testing project licenses open and transparent. This would be undertaken in such a way as to ensure addresses and names of individuals were not exposed.
  • Contribute to the development and validation of non-animal research methods and technologies and encourage research in the field.

Appointment of an Animal Welfare Commissioner

  • Appoint an Animal Welfare Commissioner with the objective of ensuring that animal welfare standards are always considered as legislation is introduced and as Britain takes part in international bodies, trade deals and obligations.

The Animal Welfare Commissioner will also be responsible for gathering the latest scientific evidence on animal sentience and animal welfare, to ensure the most up to date and evidence-based understanding across Whitehall.

  • No specific body is currently under a statutory duty to enforce the welfare requirements in the Animal Welfare Act 2006. Place the enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act (2006) on a statutory footing. The Animal Welfare Commissioner would oversee the delivery of this duty.
  • The Commissioner, working alongside Government, will assist in the promotion of best practice in animal welfare internationally.

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