Animal Welfare

Dave Doogan Excerpts
Monday 7th June 2021

(3 years ago)

Westminster Hall
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Dave Doogan Portrait Dave Doogan (Angus) (SNP)
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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Mundell. I congratulate the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Elliot Colburn) on securing this important debate. We have had a cross-party discussion on the shame attached to various behaviours so grotesque that it is truly challenging to admit that they are tolerated in any culture or community, much less elements of the communities that we live in and represent. I thank the members of my constituency who contacted me independently and those who signed these important petitions.

I turn first to the toe-curling barbarism of shark-finning and the unfolding catastrophe it presents. A once rare and infrequently consumed dish for the Chinese aristocracy, it is now a macabre edible trinket of no nutritional value—I understand it must be comprehensively seasoned before it even has a taste—the global demand for which, principally from the burgeoning Chinese middle class, has made it a totem for conspicuous consumption and an ultimate status symbol. The resulting demand is literally insatiable; there will never be enough sharks to sate the demand, currently running at 73 million sharks annually.

The strongest action must be taken if we are to reverse the growth in popularity of this most costly of dishes—costly in every sense, not only in that it is $100 for a bowl of broth—making it the guilty pleasure that it is and ensuring that, over time, it is consigned to history. We should do so as soon as possible. The UK Government have said that they will bring in legislation to ban the import and export of detached shark fins. Will the Minister clarify whether that is only shark fins that are intact and dried, or whether it is also shark fin products? If it is not, we risk supplanting one problem with another just as grievous. This being an issue of customs and enforcement at the UK border, it is of course reserved for the time being to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the UK Government, but to be clear, the SNP Government in Scotland will support any prohibition on the import of detached shark fins and shark fin products, to protect this majestic animal, an apex predator, from the unimaginable suffering of finning.

Let me turn to puppy smuggling. I and my colleagues on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee have heard the most harrowing evidence of puppy smuggling into the UK. Particularly horrifying was the evidence about pregnant bitches being seized and found to be pregnant without having had the opportunity to heal from their last caesarean section. This was compounded by evidence that the gangs will grudgingly concede their pups at the border when seized, but will be very unhappy indeed to lose a breeding bitch. This indicates the terrible ordeal for pups and their mothers who travel huge distances in poor conditions and the long-term health problems that will leave many a heartbroken family with a poorly bred pup that will never reach adulthood.

The SNP Government in Scotland have pledged to modernise and update the Animal Welfare Act 2006, and will continue to adopt the highest possible animal welfare standards to protect their wellbeing. The Scottish Government will adopt new licensing requirements for breeding puppies and, importantly, also for kittens and infant rabbits, something that I do not believe at the moment, although the Minister might clarify this, DEFRA is planning to do, and we will have the introduction of Lucy’s law, which will end the third party selling of dogs and cats under the age of six months in Scotland.

On ear cropping, many of us in this room are dog owners and dog lovers and the notion of mutilating a puppy to reshape its ears into a more aggressive posture is beyond my ken, and I am sure beyond that of the vast majority of the public. However, it is not currently prohibited to possess a dog with cropped ears. As suggested by the Scottish SPCA, animals that have undergone that mutilation are being seen in greater numbers. These animals might have been cropped illegally in Scotland or elsewhere in the UK, or might have been imported, and we need to make sure that we work cross-party and cross-nation in the UK to adopt the best possible outcome for our animals.