There have been 9 exchanges between Dr Lisa Cameron and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
|Tue 11th December 2018||Ivory Bill||4 interactions (455 words)|
|Mon 2nd July 2018||Pet Theft (Westminster Hall)||13 interactions (1,424 words)|
|Mon 4th June 2018||Ivory Bill||5 interactions (687 words)|
|Mon 21st May 2018||Sale of Puppies (Westminster Hall)||7 interactions (1,594 words)|
|Tue 1st May 2018||Cosmetics Testing on Animals (Westminster Hall)||10 interactions (2,030 words)|
|Wed 14th March 2018||Electric Dog Collars (Westminster Hall)||7 interactions (83 words)|
|Tue 12th December 2017||Animal Welfare (Westminster Hall)||3 interactions (68 words)|
|Wed 1st November 2017||Puppy Smuggling (Westminster Hall)||5 interactions (937 words)|
|Thu 26th October 2017||Oral Answers to Questions||3 interactions (69 words)|
(1 year, 8 months ago)Commons Chamber
Both the Asian and the African elephant are threatened with extinction. Just over 350,000 African elephants were counted in 2016, but that is over 100,000 fewer than in 2006. There is no reason to suppose that the number of elephants is not continuing to decline. The decline is almost certainly due to poaching for ivory. No species can continue to lose numbers at that rate without eventually becoming extinct. Unless there is a step-change in the rate at which African elephants are being poached, there will not be any African elephants in the wild in 30 years or so. We cannot possibly stand by and see such an iconic creature become extinct.
CITES estimates that 40 tonnes of ivory were illegally traded in 2016, which is the highest ever recorded. If the trade continues, the poaching will continue. The UK needs to be at the forefront of measures to stop this trade, to prevent the illegal trade that comes through markets in the UK, to enable other countries to close loopholes that traders linked to this country can exploit, and to provide an example to others.
Despite the existing laws governing the ivory trade, the UK is still a major exporter of ivory products. So long as it is legal to trade in pre-1947 ivory without a permit, and to trade in post-1947 ivory with a permit, it becomes far easier for illegal traders to disguise their fresh ivory as antique. Thirty-one per cent. of the total EU exports of ivory items between 2005 and 2014 came from the United Kingdom, and we know that there is a substantial illegal trade, because seizures have continued, and indeed increased, between 2010 and 2014. All those facts led to the consultation that preceded the Bill, and the hon. Member for Thornbury and Yate (Luke Hall) and the Minister made moral and consensual judgments in allowing and encouraging the evolution of the Bill.
The fundamental problem with the pre-existing legislation on the trade in ivory is that it gives far too wide an exemption for there to be any chance that the trade will come to an end. If, as is intended, the trade in fresh ivory is to cease completely, the expectation that there will be any legal supply of ivory also needs to cease. We need to close down the demand for ivory by rendering the whole trade morally, socially and legally unacceptable. In these circumstances, it is understandable that there are some who find any exemptions unacceptable. The Labour party would tend to support the narrowest possible range of exemptions, and during the passage of the Bill, several attempts have been made to reduce the scope of exemptions. However, during the Bill’s passage through the Lords, all the possible loosening or tightening of these exemptions has been debated, and it would be unhelpful to try to unpick any criteria now.
The Lords amendments that would make the operation of the Bill more effective are most crucial to achieving the closing down of the ivory trade, and we are pleased to see that these amendments are being proposed by the Government. It is entirely right that the details of the operation of the Bill should be laid down in regulations. It is sensible to limit the powers given to accredited civilian officers, and we wholeheartedly support the amendments that the Government have accepted. When there is an appeal against the refusal or revocation of an exemption certificate, it is sensible and effective for the appeal body to be the first-tier tribunal and for that to be on the face of the Bill. I put on record my party’s gratitude to all the Members of the upper House who have helped to steer this Bill through, and in particular, to Lord Gardiner of Kimble and Baroness Jones of Whitchurch.
One issue, however, was raised repeatedly before and during the passage of the Bill: other animal sources of ivory. For the purposes of the Bill, ivory is defined as being from elephants. There is a very real danger that the number of other animals killed for their ivory will increase to try to maintain a supply. This particularly relates to other animals in the CITES schedule of endangered wildlife: walruses, narwhals, hippopotamuses, orcas and sperm whales. We would argue that whether or not there is a consequential increase in the killing of these species, it is wrong and damaging to their chances of survival for trade in the ivory derived from these creatures to continue.
We all want the maximum protection for elephants to commence as soon as possible, so it would be unhelpful to make any attempt to disrupt the Bill’s progress now. However, the opportunity to extend the definition of ivory, and hence the range of species protected by the Bill, rests with the Secretary of State through the making of regulations under the affirmative procedure. We urge him to take that opportunity as soon as possible to cover all the relevant animals in the CITES schedule, as well as others, such as warthogs. Unicorns are apparently very popular at the moment, although, of course, they do not exist. What a terrible shame it would be if, because of our inaction, narwhals, whose horns quite possibly prompted the invention of the unicorn myth, were themselves to become non-existent.
All those who want to live in a world that possesses a rich variety of living animals will welcome the passage of the Bill. By passing it, this Parliament will be making a powerful statement that will carry weight throughout the world, but for that weight to have maximum impact, the Government must use all the instruments and influence at their disposal to persuade other countries to take a similarly strong stance, so that we can stamp out the international ivory trade for good.
I echo the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Sue Hayman) on Second Reading. We must send a clear message at home and internationally that the only ivory we will value is that on a live elephant in the wild. I would like to see a world in which all those attributes that make our diverse species so varied and special—turtles’ shells, tigers’ stripes, ostrich feathers, butterflies’ wings—are appreciated in their proper place, as part of the living creature, and not by killing the animal and cutting off part of its body. We are taking an important step forward here today. Let us not stop with elephants.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on leading on this issue for the SNP. We are all pleased and proud to see the Bill, which was a manifesto commitment at the last election certainly for our party and, I believe, for other parties. It is important to many of my constituents that animal welfare issues are taken very seriously. As she highlights, the importance of that in developing countries cannot be overstated either. It is important that these creatures be protected for future generations, and it is good that there is consensus around the Bill, despite everything else that is happening in politics today.
(2 years, 1 month ago)Westminster Hall
That is indeed a possibility. The legislation that I intend to introduce will provide for a reintroduction of the licensing system, so that we know where all the dogs are, who owns them and how they are being looked after, so we can have some grasp on animal cruelty.
Like Dogs Trust, I am troubled by the decision to equate animals with property, as the hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mike Hill) mentioned. That decision means that we are denying animals the right to be considered sentient beings. The Government’s current position seems to mean that pets derive their sentience only from being in the possession of their owner, given that when they are wrongly separated they become property for the duration of the prosecution and are therefore exempt from the Government’s promise to ensure that their welfare is protected. That must change.
All animals are sentient, regardless of their location or continuation of legitimate ownership. As the draft Animal Welfare (Sentencing and Recognition of Sentience) Bill sets out, the Government
“must have regard to the welfare needs of animals as sentient beings in formulating and implementing government policy.”
Accordingly, the Government must recognise that their current position does not protect the welfare of sentient animals when they are stolen, and the sentencing guidelines for pet theft must be changed to move us closer to a position where their welfare can always be assured.
I maintain that the current position is not working. It does not deter or limit pet theft; in fact, I would argue that pet theft is getting worse. Pet theft should be identified as a separate criminal activity and be covered by its own law.
I want to make a wee point. Last week, dangerous dogs were in the news, and 2,275 postal workers were bitten last year. I would just like to say that the majority of postal workers, like myself, love animals and dogs, and welcome them.
Does the hon. Lady agree that we need to get the information out to owners to protect their pets? Humphrey, Herbert and Minnie wander as well. I do not know where they are half the time. We need to take measures and be aware.
It is an honour to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Sharma. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool (Mike Hill) on introducing this important debate. I thank the organisers of the petition and the 105,000 people who signed it. The parliamentary e-petition system is a fantastic way of connecting us with our constituents on the issues that are really important to us and of putting such issues on the agenda.
We are clearly a nation of animal lovers. I declare an interest, as the owner of a dog and a cat. Many hon. Members have shared their experience of their pets. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Hugh Gaffney) for his contribution. He said it is a real disgrace that so few stolen pets are ever reunited with their owners. The hon. Member for Dartford (Gareth Johnson) is clearly very knowledgeable about this issue and made a particularly powerful point about sentencing guidelines. My hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Fiona Onasanya) made some very important interventions, which added significantly to the debate. I was particularly pleased to hear the story the hon. Member for Aberdeen South (Ross Thomson) told about how his dog, Poppy, reacts when he leaves to come down here—like other hon. Members, I could share similar stories. I congratulate him on his ten-minute rule Bill, and I wish him luck with it in the House tomorrow.
The hon. Member for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock (Bill Grant) talked about the huge impact that the loss of a much-loved pet can have on a family. The hon. Member for Clacton (Giles Watling) talked about the cruelty of pet theft, not just to the family who lost the pet but to the pet itself. It is important that we do not forget that. The hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron) works tirelessly on dog welfare in this House and made an important contribution.
As pet owners, we truly love our animals. Figures from Dogs Trust show that 99% of pet owners consider their animal to be part of the family—we all do. We have heard that the bond between an animal and its family is linked to the bond between a parent and their child, so it is clearly a terrible nightmare for a family if their dog or cat is stolen.
More than 60 dogs are stolen across England and Wales every single week. That is 60 families whose beloved pets are taken. Disgracefully, fewer than 5% of cases end in convictions. We do not want that situation to be allowed to continue. As Members of the House, it is our duty to try to do something about it.
Battersea Dogs & Cats Home told me that there is no single database of pet-related theft, so any information comes from freedom of information requests to individual police forces—the hon. Member for Dartford made that point clearly. Will the Minister tell us how we can tackle this problem if we do not know the scale of it? I understand the concerns raised about categorising pets in legislation designed to deal with property theft. As hon. Members said, it is important that we recognise in law that animals are sentient beings and not the equivalent of a laptop or a blender.
Tragically, on average, five dogs a day are stolen and then sold, bred or forced to fight. We have heard that the numbers are increasing; my hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool gave us some clear figures and information about that. We have also heard that designer dogs such as cockapoos or French bulldogs sell for a high price, and that Staffordshire bull terriers are often stolen for dog fighting. It is thought that the lack of prosecution and the lenient punishments are contributing to this rise. Pet theft offenders receive community service orders or a fine more often than a custodial sentence—certainly not the seven years that could be handed out.
It is heartbreaking that so few pets are reunited with their owners. Some breeds are more likely to be stolen. Labrador thefts are up 42% year on year; as the owner of a beautiful chocolate labrador called Max, I find that horrifying. The thought of losing Max is dreadful. He is six, but one of the first things we did when we got him as a puppy was to insure him, because we were advised that he was at high risk of being stolen. That is a terrible thing to have to contemplate.
I appreciate what the Government have said about updating sentencing guidelines for theft offences to account for the emotional stress caused by pet theft, and I understand that the guidelines now recommend high penalties in such cases. As hon. Members have said today, however, we need to ensure that the proper sentences are given and that prosecutions are increased. We must catch as many perpetrators as possible to do our best to stamp out this appalling crime, which causes such terrible upset to families.
On microchipping, it is welcome that the Government now require all dogs to be microchipped and registered by the age of eight weeks. That does not solve the problem—we have heard that microchips can be dug out—but it has already had a positive impact.
Break in Debate
I congratulate the hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mike Hill) on the way in which he introduced the debate.
As with every debate on animal welfare issues, it is one that is incredibly important to the public. This petition has more than 100,000 signatories—106,000, I am told —and today we have heard some heart-rending stories of individual cases from many Members’ constituencies, including from my hon. Friends the Members for Dartford (Gareth Johnson) and for Aberdeen South (Ross Thomson). The hon. Member for Hartlepool talked about some horrific cases of pets being stolen to be used, in effect, for baiting in dog fighting or to fight themselves. That is clearly the cruellest and most extreme end of this heinous crime.
When I was about 13, we had a beautiful young golden retriever called Sam. When he was about a year old, he went missing. To this day, I can remember us going out on the roads late at night, driving down every country lane around the farm in Cornwall and trying to locate Sam, all to no avail. We were unable to sleep that night because we were so distraught and upset that our wonderfully kind pet dog had gone missing.
The following day, we phoned every farmer in the area, in case Sam had gone on a runabout, and we phoned all sorts of other businesses in case we could locate him. As luck would have it, a local scrap-metal dealer phoned my mother back about an hour after they had spoken to say that there was a van at the scrapyard with a white-coloured golden retriever that might be our dog. My mother rushed off to the scrap-metal dealer, who undertook to keep the person occupied so that the van did not disappear. It was indeed our pet dog Sam, and my mother and our family were reunited with him.
The person who took Sam claimed that he had found him and had intended to take him to the police. It was therefore thought that we would not have a case and would not be able to bring a prosecution against the person, although that gentleman certainly had to endure a dressing down from my mother—a significant penalty.
I shall return to the issue of pet theft, but first I shall say a bit more about what the Government are doing to improve animal welfare specifically for pets. We have introduced new licensing requirements for puppy breeders, lowering the threshold at which they need a licence to breed pets. We have also strengthened the provisions on online sales, beyond any doubt bringing those who sell pets online into a licensing regime under the Pet Animals Act 1951. We have been clear that we intend to increase the maximum penalty for cruelty to animals to five years, and we have given our support to a private Member’s Bill that will strengthen protection and recognition for service animals. Finally, to come to the point made by the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Workington (Sue Hayman), we have been clear that we shall introduce a ban on third-party sales of puppies, in particular, and other juvenile pets. We have had a call for evidence on the issue, and we intend to introduce provisions in that regard.
[Mr Adrian Bailey in the Chair]
Specifically on the issue of pet theft, a couple of years ago we introduced changes to make the microchipping of all dogs mandatory. That has had some impact already. More than 90% of dogs are now microchipped, which has made rehoming or the reuniting of people with their missing pets much easier for the authorities. The impact of that change has been extraordinary. The latest figures from Dogs Trust show that the number of stray dogs last year fell to about 66,000, which has almost halved on a few years ago, when we regularly had more than 120,000 stray dogs per year.
Microchipping also has a potential role in identifying animals that have been stolen. A couple of years ago there was some suggestion that we should legislate to create a legal obligation on vets to scan every animal in their practice to identify animals that might have been stolen. At the time we believed that to be a step too far, but we did work with the British Veterinary Association and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons to create clear guidance for veterinary practices that there should always be a presumption of checking any new animal presented to them when an owner enrols with the practice.
Earlier today, I discussed with the police lead on dogs, Gareth Pritchard, this issue of dog and pet theft. One point he made was that although the microchipping regulations are working well and have led to big improvements, we are starting to see some problems with people not keeping their details up to date—people moving home, for example, and not keeping the record up to date. In some cases, that is starting to make it hard to reunite people with their pets. It is important—and a provision of the regulations—for people to keep their data up to date.
I have done some work on the scale of the pet theft problem. As my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford pointed out, the figures out there range widely. Our belief is that the best estimate available is from a series of freedom of information requests put to all 44 police forces, with 38 providing reliable data back. From that, it is possible to ascertain that in 2016 there were 1,788 dog thefts and in 2017 the number rose to 1,909. That equates to around 34 dogs being stolen each week—a significant number. As a number of hon. Members pointed out, the 7% increase between 2016 and 2017 suggests that it is a growing problem. I will return to the statistics later, because my hon. Friend made the legitimate point that we ought to have reliable data in this area.
The hon. Lady asked a similar question about what is driving the thefts. At one end of the scale, there are horrific examples of pets being stolen to be used in baiting and dog fights. This afternoon, I asked our police lead on dogs whether they considered that to be a large factor in dog thefts. His response was that generally speaking, as with lots of theft, dogs that are perceived to have a higher monetary value tend to be stolen. Obviously, that is bad news for pets that are deemed to be of high worth, but on one level it is reassuring—hopefully, the type of incidents that the hon. Member for Hartlepool described are the exception rather than the rule in this terrible crime. I will return to the data a little later.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford and others pointed out, the Government’s view is that the Theft Act 1968 provides sufficient sanctions to deal with the problem. He made a powerful case about some of the issues with the Sentencing Council, which I will come on to in a moment. I want to take the opportunity as the Front Bench spokesman to recognise that pets are not just objects; they are sentient beings and companions to people. The fact that they are covered for this purpose under the Theft Act does not take away at all from the fact that they are sentient beings and more than just property.
In his introduction, the hon. Member for Hartlepool highlighted the fact that, somewhat bizarrely, the Act has a provision for the theft of mushrooms and for the theft of wild animals. He asked why if we can have provisions for those, we cannot have one for pets. The reason why they are pulled out is that it was judged at the time that sometimes there could be doubt about whether a mushroom was public property or private property, and there could be some doubt about whether somebody would have ownership of a wild animal. It is beyond doubt that pets have an owner, so that provision did not apply.
Turning to sentencing, a number of hon. Members—including, quite powerfully, my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford, but also my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley (Henry Smith)—highlighted the current Sentencing Council guidelines. Hon. Members will appreciate that sentencing is a matter for the Ministry of Justice, policing is a matter for the Home Office and companion animals form part of the portfolio of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs managed by my noble Friend, Lord Gardiner. However, I will do my best to describe the position as I see it.
It is important to remember that in 2016, the independent Sentencing Council updated its sentencing guidelines for theft offences. The new guidelines acknowledge that theft that causes emotional distress to the victim or where the item stolen is of a substantial value, regardless of the monetary worth, will indicate a higher level of seriousness and the offender should be sentenced accordingly. In the context of the theft of pets, my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford is right that although the Theft Act provides for a maximum sentence of seven years, there is scant evidence of that being used.
Our reading of the current guidance, which was issued in 2016, is that in applying that guidance, the theft of a pet should be considered as either a category two or a category three offence. The custodial sentence is two years for a category two offence and one year for a category three. My hon. Friend is right that, applying our interpretation of the most recent guidance, a seven-year maximum penalty is largely theoretical for pet theft unless there are other aggravating circumstances. But as a general rule, category two or three would seem to be an appropriate sentence.
I hope that I have been able to reassure Members of the seriousness with which we take this issue. The Government have demonstrated in just the last six months that we are willing to change the law wherever necessary. Although at the moment the Government are not convinced that we need to change the law, I want to give three undertakings. First, let us use this debate to be absolutely clear that the Government interpret the latest guidance from the Sentencing Council to mean that the theft of a pet should generally be treated as a category two or three offence.
Secondly, my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford and others made an important point about the need for statistics. This afternoon, I asked Gareth Pritchard, the Home Office policing lead for dogs, to marshal accurate data from the 44 police forces. It should not be left to third parties to try their luck through freedom of information requests—I agree that Government should marshal that. I have asked him to generate that data and to provide me with a report of the most accurate data he is able to gather.
Thirdly, I will discuss with my noble friend Lord Gardiner whether there are any other things that we have considered by way of enforcement and to improve detection rates for this crime. One of the messages I picked up from hon. Members’ contributions is that it may be not so much that the ability to sentence is not there or even that the maximum penalties are wrong, but simply that too few of these crimes are detected and too few prosecutions are brought.
(2 years, 2 months ago)Commons Chamber
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her support and I totally agree: if we have the option to put this in, which the clause gives us, we should just get it in the Bill. We know that there will quickly be a diversion to hippos if we do not provide for that.
I am fully aware that others want to speak, so I come to my last point, which is about enforcement. I had interesting negotiations with our current Prime Minister when she was Home Secretary about funding the national wildlife crime unit, and I am pleased to say that that funding is to run until 2020. We would like a strong, firm reassurance from the Minister that this legislation will need enforcing and will need the right level of expertise. The wildlife unit is absolutely brilliant; it is located just south of the river, in a strange suburb where there is a large, redundant Russian tank. For those who cannot find it, I should say that it is painted in party colours. I recommend going to see the NWCU, however, as it does fine work. We need clarity that it will be beefed up and properly resourced for the future. On the same grounds, the CITES Border Force team at Heathrow needs sufficient levels of manpower and resources, as they will be our frontine of defence against illegal imports and organised criminal activity coming into the UK.
The London illegal wildlife trade conference is back on 10 and 11 October. With this Bill, we have a wonderful opportunity to regain our leadership on this issue. How quickly can the Secretary of State get this Bill, which we all support, through its parliamentary process and on the statute book? I will support the Bill this evening.
In respect of the stacks of ivory that the Scottish Government have in their museums, will they be prepared to destroy those horrendous objects or to offer them back to the countries from which they were originally poached?
It is a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron), who made the point that the Bill has cross-party support. I welcome the fact that the Secretary of State has taken the bull by the horns—perhaps that is the wrong analogy to use in this instance—and very much taken on board the ban on ivory sales. He is driving it forward in his characteristically forceful way. I urge him to go even further, because it is the international ivory trade that matters. It is great that the Chinese are introducing a ban, but we need many Asian countries to stop buying ivory, because if there is no value in ivory, people will not risk their lives to deliver it around the world. We are setting a great example.
I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for North Shropshire (Mr Paterson) who did a lot of very good work when he was Secretary of State. In his characteristic way, he was a hands-on Secretary of State and went right to the heart of Africa to see what was happening.
As we sit in the House today, we do not realise the dangers faced by the rangers. As the hon. Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) said, they risk their lives, day in, day out, to try to protect elephants. In many African states, the political and military situation is difficult, and in many places wars are going on, so there is added danger for rangers trying to protect elephants. Through everything that we do, including international aid, we need to try to make sure that we can deliver a better life for so many people in Africa so that they do not go out poaching and can find other ways to make a living. That way, the rangers will not have to risk their lives, day in, day out, to try to protect elephants.
We cannot keep losing more than 20,000 elephants a year. They will be extinct, if not in our generation, certainly in the next. We cannot allow that to happen, so this ban on the sale of ivory in this country is a good step in the right direction. I know that those in the antiques trade are worried, but the problem is that it has been so difficult to identify what is antique ivory and what is not, so a ban on the sale of virtually all kinds of ivory is the best way forward. If we can stamp out the demand, we will drive down the value, which will save many elephants throughout Africa.
I very much welcome what the Secretary of State is doing and know that he will raise this issue internationally and in all his discussions around the world. We do not want to see America rolling back its position and allowing more ivory into America, because that would increase the demand. With the market in China now drying up, we really have the chance to save many more elephants in Africa.
When the ban on the sale of ivory is introduced, will the Secretary of State make sure that it is vigorously enforced? It is no good introducing legislation unless we can enforce it vigorously. Can we also make sure that the penalties for those who wilfully ignore the ban are proper deterrents? Again, it is no good introducing legislation if there are no real teeth to make sure that people adhere to it. We want to be certain that we are not going to trade ivory in this country.
We can bring about a huge reduction in the number of elephants that are slaughtered throughout the continent of Africa. Earlier, Members questioned whether we needed to protect the Indian elephant. Indeed, there are also other species of animals with ivory that we may need to protect as we go forward. If anybody can get a measure through this House quickly, I believe that it is you, Secretary of State. With the support of the shadow Secretary of State and of Parliament, I believe that we can do this. There are times when Parliament robustly debates matters. There are times, dare I say it, that Prime Minister’s questions resembles something of a bear garden. However, there are times such this when we can all unite. This Bill is long overdue. Many of us have been campaigning in this House for a ban. I very much welcome what you are doing, Secretary of State, and I am sure that it will have complete cross-party support tonight. I urge you to work even faster—
(2 years, 2 months ago)Westminster Hall
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Austin. I congratulate the hon. Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk (Martyn Day) on introducing the debate. Let me give some background about myself. I am from a family of dog lovers. Our first pet was from the Scottish SPCA. We had that little fellow for 17 years; he grew up with my daughters. He was much loved by the neighbours, but he was a romantic wee dog and at certain times of the season he was not very popular with some of the neighbours. But he had a joyous 17 years in our family. When his time came and we lost him, I have to say that despite being a senior fire officer and, as I thought, a robust individual, I cried for 30 or 40 minutes—I really missed him. That is my background as a dog lover, and I am not ashamed at shedding a tear over losing a best friend.
I am pleased that this Government, with the help of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, have made animal welfare one of their top priorities, and the issue of commercial puppy breeding and sales is no exception. All pet owners would wish their dog to have the best possible start in life. That is especially important when thousands of animals are being bred every year by irresponsible breeders—the money makers—who separate them from their litters far too early and place them in wholly inappropriate and often traumatising conditions. As I am sure others will agree, that practice must end, to protect the puppy and the parents.
I welcome this petition and the common-sense approach that the Government are taking to ensure that our high standards of animal welfare apply to puppy breeders. The UK Government’s proposals are entirely sensible and necessary, and I hope they will satisfy the almost 150,000 signatories to the petition across the United Kingdom.
It is right that we ban the sale of puppies under the age of eight weeks and that we require licensed breeders to show a puppy alongside its mother before a sale is agreed or concluded. Those steps will help to ensure that puppies are not separated from their mothers or sold at an inappropriately early stage. In this world of internet shopping, it is vital that we clamp down on online sales where the buyer has not actually seen the puppy that they are buying. To ignore that expanding sales area would create an unacceptable loophole that unscrupulous breeders would surely exploit. I am pleased that the Government are working to ensure that that risk is addressed. It is also important that we have compulsory licensing for anyone in the business of breeding and selling dogs, and require that licensed breeders only sell puppies that they themselves have bred.
Those tighter restrictions on the industry will help to establish the clear accountability that we must have if we are to maintain the best possible standards of canine welfare. I am sure that trusted breeders will support those actions. I understand that the Government are currently examining evidence relating to the possibility of a ban on third-party sales of both puppies and kittens in England, and that a call for evidence closed earlier this month. I would welcome a ban as the outcome.
Much of the law relating to animal welfare in Scotland is devolved and it falls to the Scottish Parliament to protect puppies from unscrupulous breeders. I am sure they will do so, given the opportunity. We need action in Scotland. An investigation by OneKind, the animal welfare charity, recently revealed that some puppies in Scottish puppy farms are being kept in horrendous conditions. Although I welcome the Say No to Puppy Dealers campaign, it is clear that more must be done to clamp down on unscrupulous breeders throughout the United Kingdom.
I congratulate the Government on the work they are doing. I hope that the Scottish and UK Governments, and the devolved institutions, will work together—the movement throughout these islands was mentioned—and bring an end to unscrupulous puppy breeding and sales in the United Kingdom. Regardless of any changes made by Governments, I ask prospective purchasers to give due consideration to who they purchase their puppy from. Happy and healthy puppies should be our objective. We owe it to our best friends.
I am glad that my hon. Friend is putting on record the Scottish National party’s support for Lucy’s law. We will have to work with our colleagues in the Scottish Government to ensure that happens there, too. Given that this is a devolved matter, there is a golden opportunity in this debate for England to show leadership in the UK and take the initiative. If the Minister went further and faster, he would create a situation whereby the devolved Administrations would swiftly fall into line. Does my hon. Friend agree that it would be good if the Minister gave an unequivocal statement in his summation?
I am delighted to serve under your chairing, Sir Roger, even though you would rather be on this side of the room talking in the debate. I know you feel passionately about it, as does Mr Austin, who was in the Chair before you. I congratulate the hon. Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk (Martyn Day), who carefully introduced the debate. We have also heard contributions from the hon. Member for Morley and Outwood (Andrea Jenkyns), my right hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd), and the hon. Members for Clacton (Giles Watling), for Edinburgh West (Christine Jardine), for Aberdeen South (Ross Thomson), for Strangford (Jim Shannon) and for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock (Bill Grant), and the SNP spokesperson—I will try and get her constituency name right—the hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron). I am pleased to see the Minister in his place.
This is a debate in which we largely agree, so I will not take up time agreeing with hon. Members who made passionate contributions on what is—let us be honest—heinous animal cruelty, and one of the worst, because it is about making money. It is in no way about trying to provide a supply of animals for which there is a demand.
I was shocked by the figure of how many registered providers there are—only 12%, and about 70% of what is provided—so the vast majority of people get their pets through fairly dodgy provision, and the simple fact is that, unless the Minister can tell us, we do not know how many people are out there operating. That is an awful thing to say, and it is because many of them do not operate in this country at all. As has been said, they operate through the south of Ireland and eastern Europe, so the animals get here after the most perilous of journeys. One presumes that many do not get here at all because they suffer in transit.
I agree with what has been said. I will not go through some of the more gory stories, but we have to recognise that they are there and take them up. I hope the Minister will take away from the debate the need for action. Most of us agree on the need for a ban. Regulation is always called for, but a complete ban seems to be the way forward in this case. Labour would support that as part of an animal welfare Act, which could likewise deal with other evils out there. As always, I am aware that it could become a Christmas tree Bill, which we stick on things to ban—we all have our favourites—but that would be appropriate in this case because people feel passionately about it.
I thank those who introduced the petition and who support Lucy’s law. The message is that the Government need to act quickly and comprehensively, because this is a trade that should not be allowed to continue in the way that it has. Puppy smuggling is one of those animal welfare issues about which one thinks, “Why does anyone do it?” As I say, they do it purely because they want to make money. There is no other reason why the trade continues.
The Animal and Plant Health Agency has done some sterling work, alongside the Dog’s Trust. I thank the Dog’s Trust, Battersea Dogs Home, Cats Protection, various other organisations and other private contributors, who have given me lots of information, which I do not intend to impart. We all know that this is a well-trailed area. It is known exactly what is going on and what should be going on.
Sadly, where the Government have acted—for instance, with the pet travel scheme—there is evidence that it has not helped, because people have perhaps used that as a device to bring in animals where other means would not have been allowed. Of course, we would strongly argue that we need additional border guards. Whatever one’s view on Brexit—no doubt the Minister and I will debate Brexit again—we need to patrol and maintain our borders, because this unacceptable trade goes on daily. Whatever we feel about a ban, we could do more to crack down on what is coming through, because it is clearly unacceptable. I hope the Minister will say something about that. Surely we must have a means to deal with that, notwithstanding the need for a ban on the third-party provision of puppies, as well as cats and other animals, as has been said. It is not just puppies; we could get into rabbits, guinea pigs and so on. Sadly, these animals are being abused, because they are being bred purely for the worst of reasons.
International studies have shown that puppies obtained from pet shops have, as has been said, a lower life expectancy than other puppies and suffer much more from disease. That is made worse if they come here from other parts of the world, as they have already faced the problems of transit. Labour would support banning third-party sales, and we hope we can get on with it. It is no good just promising it; people now expect us to take action through Parliament, so we cannot allow a delay, and obviously this is also about welfare standards, traceability, transparency and accountability.
(2 years, 3 months ago)Westminster Hall
Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Lady, but a Division has just been called in the House. We will suspend for 15 minutes if there is one Division, and an extra 10 minutes for any subsequent Divisions. As soon as Dr Cameron and the Minister are back in their seats, we can resume the debate.
Break in Debate
I congratulate the hon. Lady on securing this important debate. I echo what she said about this country’s role and our proud history of taking the lead. However, is it not also the case that the UK is reported to be the biggest user of animals in experiments within the whole EU? Not all of those experiments are for serious medical conditions. For example, skin rashes account for a high proportion of animal experiments, where non-animal alternatives already exist and are considered to be more scientifically sound.
I will begin by thanking my hon. Friend the Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron). I have found from other debates that I probably have the distinction of being the only Member in the Chamber who can pronounce her constituency properly. I am delighted to participate in this debate to call for a global ban on animal testing, for which, as she so eloquently put it, the time has definitely come.
Cosmetic testing on animals has been banned in the UK since 1998, and we have heard that there has been a ban on the sale of all testing of cosmetics on animals in the EU since 2013. Noticeably, that has not prevented the EU cosmetics industry from thriving; indeed, it provides about 2 million jobs. However, Members of the European Parliament have expressed concern that most cosmetic product ingredients are also used in many other products, such as pharmaceuticals, detergents and food, and may therefore have been tested on animals under a different legal framework. It is therefore important that the EU develops alternative testing methods, and that those methods receive international regulatory acceptance for use in the safety assessment of cosmetic ingredients and products.
Despite the progress that has been made in the EU and the United Kingdom, we still have a long way to go globally, as my hon. Friend has pointed out. Astonishingly, 80% of countries still allow animal testing and the marketing of cosmetics tested on animals. China has a major cosmetics market that not only allows but requires products to be tested on animals in Government labs before being approved for sale. It is generally thought that China’s mandatory animal testing requirement for imported cosmetics is likely to be the biggest challenge for a global ban.
As my hon. Friend has pointed out, there is also a lack of reliable animal-testing data for cosmetics imported into the EU. We need to ensure that no product on the EU or UK market was tested on animals in a third country, and that requires us to do a little more work. I am heartened that our partners in the European Parliament have called on EU leaders to use their diplomatic networks to build a coalition and launch an international convention within the EU framework. I hope that a ban will be in force before 2023.
We know that a UN treaty would not guarantee a global ban on the testing of cosmetics on animals, but it would be a bold and progressive step in the right direction, and I think the UN and everyone in the Chamber would agree that it really must take that step. That would certainly help considerably in encouraging China and other countries that mandate testing to modernise and to stop blinding, poisoning and killing animals so that we can have lipstick, mascara and blusher.
As we have heard, what is most distressing about this issue is that cosmetic testing on animals is wholly unnecessary yet it causes our fellow creatures huge suffering. Transferring the results of animal tests to humans has proven problematic and even, at times, misleading. Using approved tests that do not involve animals, and sticking to the many combinations of existing ingredients that have already been established as safe for human use, would be a better way of ensuring safety. We heard from my hon. Friend that consumers are becoming increasingly ethical when it comes to purchasing power and consumer choice, so, aside from the cruelty aspect, a ban on testing on animals would make sense as a response to consumer demand.
Despite the availability of alternatives, countless animals around the world continue to be subjected to cruel tests so that a new eyeliner or perfume can be developed. I acknowledge that progress has been made, but the lack of concerted global action means that the cosmetics industry in large part continues to test as it always has done. We know that if the industry were legally required around the world to stop testing on animals, it would adapt, survive and thrive. Modern science is replacing last century’s animal tests with kinder, faster and better tools for consumer safety. Global action is needed; otherwise, as my hon. Friend has said, testing will simply move to countries where there is no ban.
There is huge public support for a global ban. As my hon. Friend has pointed out, there is clearly widespread political support for such a measure—I believe that we have support from every party in the House and right across the European Union. We should harness that support to influence the bad practices that we know go on in other parts of the world. Testing cosmetics on animals is indefensible from an ethical viewpoint—our fellow creatures suffer unnecessarily for our vanity, because of global inaction—and a scientific viewpoint. There is a better way.
It is time for cosmetic testing on animals to stop. The beauty industry needs a makeover, and it is time for global action.
Break in Debate
Those opportunities do present themselves once one has an independent trade policy, so yes, it is a potential opportunity to look at these issues and take our own independent seat on wildlife conventions such as CITES. I always remember a former Labour Minister telling me of their frustration when they wanted to restrict the sale of bluefin tuna, which was in a perilous state. The UK argued for that, but the European Commission took a different position and we had to fall in line with that. There will be opportunities for us as an independent country to be vocal on those issues, particularly in forums such as the OIE.
As the hon. Lady is probably aware, the OIE’s remit, somewhat surprisingly, does not extend to the welfare of animals and issues such as cosmetic testing. As she rightly pointed out, the UN is the right place for that. I should also point out that many Government Departments have overlapping interests. She may be aware that responsibility on animal testing and licensing of any such testing is the Home Office’s responsibility, deliberately not that of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. DEFRA has responsibility for animal welfare issues, and obviously the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has responsibility for issues pertaining to the United Nations.
As the hon. Lady pointed out, in 1998 the UK was the first country in the world to implement a ban on the use of animals in cosmetic testing. The European Union’s ban on the use of testing in cosmetics was first introduced, I think, in 2013. Ever since we introduced our ban, the UK has shared our knowledge and expertise in this area with other countries. Most recently, for example, we provided support and advice to China on ending unnecessary cosmetics testing on animals and advised on a science-based approach for the use of non-animal alternative testing. In 2015, the Government implemented a similar ban on the testing of finished household products on animals as well as a qualified ban on ingredients. We therefore continue to make progress in this area in terms of both tightening our regulations and sharing our expertise with other countries.
I turn to the regulations in this country. My hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith) raised concerns about the number of animals on which cosmetics are still tested. There was a 5% reduction from 2015 to 2016. The Home Office publishes an annual report that gives details on the statistics for animal testing, which it is important to note is down considerably from a high point in 1971, when 5.6 million animals were used in animal tests; that was the peak. These days, some tests are, for instance, for animals that have been genetically altered, rather than what many people would regard as conventional animal testing. Nevertheless, it is a stated commitment of the Government to reduce the number of tests continually.
We recognise that in some instances animals can be an important tool in scientific research and can build on our understanding of how biological systems work. However, animals are not used lightly in that work, and the Government maintain a rigorous regulatory system under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986. That regulatory system ensures that animal research and testing is carried out only where there are no practical alternatives and under controls that keep suffering to a minimum.
As I said, the UK has played a leading role globally in supporting the development and adoption of scientific techniques to replace, reduce and refine the use of animals, known as the three Rs. The three Rs principle is robustly applied to every single research proposal that requires the use of animals, to ensure that animals are replaced with non-animal alternatives wherever possible, that the number of animals is reduced and that procedures are refined as far as possible to remove any suffering that animals might incur during those tests.
The hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow made some important points about the role the UK will take in highlighting the issue internationally. It is already the case that, as the first country to adopt such a ban, we are keen to share our knowledge and experience in this area with many other countries. We have already done so recently with China. She cited a number of other countries that have introduced a ban.
I have made it clear that our general stance, particularly on the OIE, for which DEFRA is responsible, will be to agitate for higher animal welfare standards around the world. I hope the hon. Lady will appreciate that we need cross-Government discussion on this specific issue with other Departments, notably the Home Office and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which have a particular locus in this area. However, I will draw to the attention of the Ministers who lead on this the points that the hon. Lady raised today, and also the point that the shadow Minister made about other work to highlight this matter within the UN, to ensure that the UK plays an active part and does its utmost to spread the good practice that we began all those years ago in 1998.
(2 years, 5 months ago)Westminster Hall
I genuinely thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. He is absolutely right that we have had cross-party support on this issue. I am glad that the Government are taking action, because right across the Chamber and regardless of party colour, there is real support for action on this issue. The hon. Gentleman’s intervention is very timely—
I will take another intervention, but first I will respond to the intervention from the hon. Member for Edinburgh East (Tommy Sheppard). I was about to discuss what has been suggested regarding the consultation since it was launched at the weekend—namely, that the Government are not seeking to ban the sale of these devices. My understanding is that that is wrong, because the consultation document itself says that the consultation is seeking views and calling for evidence on the sale of electric shock dog collars, as well as views and evidence on their use. I will quote the consultation document directly, which says that the Government
“want to hear views about what these proposals will mean for the sale and retailers of e-collars and whether any further restrictions will be required”.
I have made it clear from the outset that I would only ever welcome a Government proposal for a ban if it applied to the sale as well as the use of these devices. So, yes, I ask the Minister to confirm that it is the intention of the Government to seek a ban that covers the sale and use of these devices, and I call on those colleagues who are just as passionate as I am about banning their sale to submit their views to the consultation. In fact, I hope that all animal lovers will take the opportunity to engage in the upcoming consultation and make their feelings clear.
Break in Debate
I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. What he highlights is some of the anecdotal evidence that has come through this campaign from people who are dog behaviourists and trainers, and who have seen the effects of the use of shock collars and how detrimental they can be. I absolutely agree with him, and with the Kennel Club recommendations, that whatever we do must happen right across the country.
I thank the hon. Lady for her intervention. She is absolutely right that there has been huge support from the public on this issue, and no doubt many of our inboxes are filled with emails about it from constituents and from others right across the country who care just as much as we do about animal welfare and driving up animal welfare standards. I congratulate her on all the work that she has done with the all-party group. I would be absolutely delighted to join it and support it in any work that it is seeking to do, because she is right that dog welfare does not just end with banning shock collars; there is an awful lot more to do, and introducing Lucy’s law is absolutely one of those things.
In the run-up to this debate, members of the public were invited to post and share their views about banning shock collars on the House of Commons Facebook page. The response to that invitation has been quite amazing and the comments are still coming in, so I thank everyone who took the time to share their thoughts. The majority of respondents believe that shock collars are not necessary to train dogs, and I will share with Members a couple of the comments. Deb said:
“There is no justification for training animals using pain, rather than reward and building trust. It is not only cruel. It risks creating behavioural issues in the short or long term that could be a risk to humans. Ban the shock collars. It’s overdue.”
“They need to be banned. It is a cruel and inhumane form of torture and abuse. If it isn’t suitable to use on your human child then it shouldn’t be suitable to use on a pet.”
“If you love your dog why would you want to give them an electric shock? Why not spend time with them training them?”
(2 years, 8 months ago)Westminster Hall
Our approach is not selective. There are huge numbers of animals involved, The approach in England is a preventive cull, as opposed to a selective cull. My view is that at the very least the Government should suspend the cull and commission a proper study into the alternatives, so that we can be sure that the policy we adopt is based on science, and not assumption.
I shall hold off on taking interventions for a few moments, as in the time I have remaining I want to briefly look at how we treat exotic wild animals. In so many areas we are world leaders, but in others we lag behind. For example, at least 23 countries worldwide have banned the use of wild animals in circuses; but despite British Government promises going back five years, it is still legal to use lions, tigers, zebras and other wild animals in travelling circuses in the UK. It is time for Ministers to make good on a promise that has been made and repeated over the past five years.
The keeping of monkeys as pets is a similar issue. Primates are highly intelligent wild animals; they are not suitable pets. Like us, they enjoy complex social lives and form deep and lasting relationships, but despite that thousands upon thousands of squirrel monkeys, capuchins and marmosets languish alone in cages across the country. Because they become very tricky as they grow old, they are often simply abandoned and then have to be picked up by wonderful, but overstretched, organisations such as Monkey World in Dorset. The emotional and physical damage that they endure takes years and years to undo. Fifteen European countries have banned the trade, and more than 100,000 British people signed a petition demanding that we do the same. Again, we need to get a grip on this issue.
It is not just individual private ownership that needs looking at. There are 250 licensed zoos in the UK. Some, such as Howletts in Kent, really do represent the gold standard. The welfare of the animals is their principal concern, and the conservation of the species that they harbour is at the forefront of their campaign. They release animals back into the wild in a way that no other zoo in the country does. However, recent incidents, such as the exposé of the grotesque conditions at South Lakes Safari Zoo, show that there is a gulf between best and worst practice, and a need for better standards and a more rigorous inspection process. I believe that we need to establish a new, independent zoo inspectorate and give it the job of drawing up fresh standards for animal welfare in UK zoos and then enforcing them.
I want to join in the applause that the Government rightly earned last month when the Secretary of State announced that we would ban the trade in ivory here in the UK. Globally, the trade takes the lives of 20,000 elephants a year—one every 26 minutes—and they are hurtling towards extinction. We in this country—I do not think that many people are aware of this—are the largest exporter of legal ivory in the world, stimulating demand for ivory and giving the traffickers a means to launder new ivory as if it were old.
The Government’s promise is not merely symbolic—it is much more than that—but I hope they will go further. Evidence is mounting of an increase in the trade in hippo ivory. There are only 100,000 or so hippos in the world, so the slightest shift in demand could be devastating for that species. I hope that the Government will expand their consultation, or the policy when it eventually emerges, to include other ivory-bearing species such as hippos, the walrus and the narwhal.
Finally on the international dimension, hon. Members will remember the outrage that followed the killing of Cecil the lion in 2015 and, too, the announcement a few weeks ago that the United States President was thinking of reversing the decision of his predecessor to ban the import of elephant and lion parts from trophy hunting. At the time it went largely unreported that this country also allows the import of wild animal trophies, including from species threatened with extinction. We need to change that. It should simply be illegal to import body parts of any animal listed as endangered by the convention on international trade in endangered species
The last point that I want to make moves into a different field. It relates not to farmed or exotic animals, or to our role overseas; it relates to puppies.
I thank the hon. Lady very much for her intervention, and I could not agree with her more strongly. I pay tribute to Marc Abraham who led the campaign for Lucy’s law. It is probably inappropriate to mention that I can see him in the Public Gallery, but he has been an absolute champion for the cause. I believe that we will see some results in the next few months and will perhaps hear from the Minister on that shortly.
I will cut my speech down, because I have taken far too many interventions and am running out of time. I have provided a long but not exhaustive list of measures that I think we should take. It is an important list, however, and taking those measures is the right thing to do and would put the Government on the right side of public opinion. If there is any doubt about that, we need only to look at the public reaction to the albeit false stories about MPs believing that animals do not have feelings, or at the reaction from voters to the 2017 Conservative manifesto proposal on holding a vote to abolish the Hunting Act 2004—something that I hope the Government will now rule out.
I want to give the Minister enough time to respond. I know she will be unable to respond to every point I have made, but I hope that she will do her best in the 10 minutes we have left.
(2 years, 9 months ago)Westminster Hall
The hon. Gentleman makes a perfectly fair and valid comment about prioritising resources. It is the responsibility of all of us in politics to consider that carefully every single day. We also need to recognise other bodies, including the likes of Dogs Trust, which finance some of the solutions. We should applaud that. The Government need to play a role, but so do many other bodies and groups as well as individuals.
I am aware that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall North (Eddie Hughes) mentioned, some of the suggestions are reliant on changes in the law that we may or may not be able to make until we leave the EU. I am sure the Minister will comment on some of those later. There are some things we can do now, and there are some things that we may not be able to do for a couple of years, but I hope we can pay attention to all of them and plan for the future now, not just when it occurs.
I know the Government are aware of all the issues I and others have raised today and I appreciate, and am proud of the fact, that they have made many changes and raised issues around animal welfare recently. That is to be applauded. I respectfully request, therefore, that the Minister and his colleagues carefully consider the various suggestions and actions that will come out of the debate. I look forward to hearing his response.
Does the hon. Lady agree that banning third-party puppy sales might help to reduce impulse purchases, especially around Christmas?
(2 years, 9 months ago)Commons Chamber
We are all grateful for the RSPCA’s excellent work on highlighting animal cruelty, but we have no plans to extend such powers at the moment.
The hon. Lady makes a very good point. Of course, sentencing decisions and, indeed, policing matters are devolved, but one thing we do at DEFRA is to work closely with the Home Office to ensure that examples of animal cruelty that need to focus the minds of police forces on more effective investigation are at the heart of our shared conversations.