Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill

Chris Loder Excerpts
Monday 5th December 2022

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Chris Loder Portrait Chris Loder (West Dorset) (Con)
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It is a pleasure to speak in the debate this afternoon. If it runs to the full three hours, Mr Hollobone, I apologise for having to leave a little early.

I thank and congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Elliot Colburn), who presented the petition to the House in such a compelling manner. I should inform the House of my interest as the son of a tenant beef farmer in my constituency of West Dorset. I also thank all those at the back: the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, and many others. I am grateful for all the briefings that they have provided for this debate and for the last three years to Members who have been in Parliament since 2019 and have been championing the animal welfare cause. We very much appreciate it.

Back in 2020, I brought a private Member’s Bill to the House. The Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill, which went into law, increased the maximum sentence for those who are cruel to animals from six months to five years. Like the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill, it was widely supported across the House. No one voted against it. I was very pleased about that, because we were a bit short of time. It went through, and today in England and Wales, people who have been cruel to animals are now spending a lot longer in jail than they would have before.

In my speech on the Second Reading of my Bill, I said it was important that we address the live export of animals for fattening and slaughter. In that debate, I clearly articulated the evidence—brought forward, I think, by the BBC—that animals, primarily cows, raised in the United Kingdom were being slaughtered in Lebanon, Libya and even further afield. This is why we must bring the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill back to the House of Commons and get it through. My hon. Friend the Member for South Thanet (Craig Mackinlay), who is not in his place, referred to Kent Action Against Live Exports, which deserves a huge tribute for all the work that it has done. That group has shone a light on the most disgraceful conditions that our animals have been forced to endure, having to travel hours and hours all the way down to southern Europe. That is not acceptable.

There are some in the House who disagree about the value of leaving the European Union, but we must recognise the reality that being part of the European Union required freedom of movement for goods and services, and that animals, including cows and sheep, are part of that. Hon. Members have made the point, very soundly in my view, that we are now able to control our own laws in this respect. The Government should not hang on a moment longer than they absolutely have to before grasping the issue.

In West Dorset, there have been countless very sad cases of animal worrying by dogs leading to the death of sheep and cows. For example, very sadly, Gladis, a highland cow, and her unborn calf died as a result of her falling off the edge of Eggardon Hill, which is a very steep drop. Such cases mean that this is a very live matter for my constituents. Many of us have campaigned on the issue for a long time. I started that campaign as part of my private Member’s Bill, and continue to this day.

I understand that the Government have a lot of work to do—I am pleased that they do—but we do not have so much work that we cannot fit in an extra few hours. I state on the record, Mr Hollobone, that I would be very happy to spend a bit longer in this place on a Friday if that was necessary to get the Bill through, because it is so important that we do so. I would be happy to tell the Chief Whip the same following this debate.

I will conclude my remarks by once again thanking all those who have campaigned so vigorously on the animal welfare agenda that so many of us support. I petition my right hon. Friend the Minister to take heed of our concerns. If I can help any more than I already am helping to bring the Bill back to the House urgently, I would be delighted to hear from him or any member of the Government.