We have a moral duty to treat the animals we share our planet with in a humane and compassionate way. Animals should not suffer unnecessarily or be kept in inappropriate conditions. The government needs to do more to ensure the proper treatment of birds such as pheasants and partridges that are bred and reared specifically for the purpose of shooting.
The last Labour government introduced the Animal Welfare Act 2006. This set out in law for the first time clear standards relating to the welfare of animals. The Act makes it a criminal offence to subject an animal to unnecessary suffering. It imposes a duty of care on any person who has responsibility for an animal. A Code of Practice published in March 2010 would have led to the removal of battery cages and the introduction of minimum cage sizes to protect the welfare of game birds. However, during the last Parliament, the Coalition government chose not to introduce this Code. It chose to bring in a less stringent code that allows the use of ‘enriched’ cages to house game birds, with no minimum requirements on cage sizes. Animal welfare groups including the League Against Cruel Sports, Animal Aid and the RSPCA expressed concern that the Coalition government’s Code did not go far enough.
The last Labour government also commissioned a study on whether cage-based breeding for pheasants and partridges can fully meet birds’ welfare needs. The Coalition government failed to publish its findings during the last Parliament, but the report was published in August 2015 and concluded that cage enrichment has little impact on animal welfare.
At the general election I stood on a manifesto which included a commitment to build on the previous Labour government’s record on animal welfare and prior to the election, my Shadow Frontbench colleagues committed to reduce animal cruelty on shooting estates and undertake an independent review on how to ensure the humane treatment of game birds.
The current government has stated that it intends to review the statutory Code of Practice for the welfare of game birds reared for sporting purposes this year. I hope that the government does listen and respond to the concerns that continue to be raised by animal welfare groups about the welfare of game birds reared for shooting.
I will to continue to follow this issue closely.