Animal Welfare

Neil Hudson Excerpts
Monday 7th June 2021

(2 years, 11 months ago)

Westminster Hall
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts

Westminster Hall is an alternative Chamber for MPs to hold debates, named after the adjoining Westminster Hall.

Each debate is chaired by an MP from the Panel of Chairs, rather than the Speaker or Deputy Speaker. A Government Minister will give the final speech, and no votes may be called on the debate topic.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Neil Hudson Portrait Dr Neil Hudson (Penrith and The Border) (Con) [V]
- Hansard - -

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Mundell, and to follow the hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Steven Bonnar). I welcome this debate on important areas of animal welfare. I declare a professional interest as a veterinary surgeon, and I also declare that I am a member of the Dogs Trust parliamentary puppy smuggling taskforce.

I strongly support the shark fin petition, and I am reassured that the Government have said they are keen to act in order to stop this cruel practice. Enlarging this theme, as we move from World Environment Day to World Ocean Day, we must as a nation speak out and urge other countries to join in the conservation of species in all habitats. I welcome the Government’s approach in their action plan for animal welfare, and the Environment Minister’s responses to our letters and to the inquiries held by the Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs into pet smuggling and the movement of animals across borders. I pay tribute to those campaigners championing the causes in the puppy and ear-cropping petitions, including my fellow vet Marc Abraham, the British Veterinary Association, the Dogs Trust, Blues Cross, Battersea, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and the FOAL Group—Focus on Animal Law—to name but a few.

In recent times, and stimulated by the pandemic, we have seen increased demand for pets, increased smuggling and importation, and a shift from the pet travel scheme to the commercial Balai directive. We have also heard increased reports in the UK of diseases such as canine brucellosis, babesiosis, leishmaniasis and echinococcus, some of which have zoonotic potential. In our EFRA Committee hearings, we have heard harrowing accounts of the transport of puppies and heavily pregnant dogs in appalling conditions. Now that we have left the EU, we have the opportunity to tighten up on legislation and border checks, in order to put an end to the miserable plight of animals being transported by unscrupulous smugglers. We urgently need to raise to six months the minimum age of entry for dogs and cats, reinstate rabies titre checks, and increase the wait time post-rabies vaccination to 12 weeks. We also need to institute pre-import screening for pathogens such as brucella canis and to reinstitute mandatory tick and tapeworm treatment before entry. This will protect not only travelling animals but the UK pet population, and it will also militate against the risk of some diseases being transmitted to people.

In addition, the number of pets per person, currently set at five, is too high and should be reduced to two. In fact, it would be good if it was capped per vehicle, as we have heard reports of vehicles picking up foot passengers in order to increase the number of animals they can legally transport. The rules on transporting pregnant dogs and cats need to be tightened. Currently, this is not allowed in the last 10% of the pregnancy, but that is very difficult to adjudicate on, so the period should be increased to, say, after 50% of the pregnancy. We must not forget about cats and kittens in this debate. The scale of their smuggling is harder to ascertain, but we must be cognisant that this is not just a canine problem.

Ear cropping is a cruel, horrific and unnecessary practice that is rightly illegal in the UK, but sadly there are increased reports of cropped dogs, with six in 10 small animal vets saying they have seen cropped dogs in the past year, begging the question of not only whether there are increased imports but also the horrific concept of whether cropping is being done illicitly here in the UK. Celebrities and people in public life have a role to play here by not endorsing or promoting the ownership of cropped dogs. We also need to be careful in culture and media. One of my favourite films is Disney Pixar’s “Up”, a touching and funny film that coined the inspired phrase “cone of shame” to describe a veterinary buster collar. However, take a closer look at one of the Dobermans in the cartoon film and it looks like its ears have been cropped and splintered. These subtle images normalise something in our psyches that we should be calling out as unacceptable. Again, we should not forget the cat here. We should ban the import of dogs with cropped ears but also the import of cats that have been de-clawed, another banned practice here in the UK.

Animal welfare unites us in humanity in our duty of care to animals, the fully sentient beings in our care. I welcome the Government’s direction of travel in this area, and I am sure that we can work with the Government, across parties, to do our bit to help sharks and dogs—and not forgetting the cats.