Animal Welfare

Patricia Gibson 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

Patricia Gibson Portrait Patricia Gibson (North Ayrshire and Arran) (SNP)
- Hansard - -

I am delighted to participate in this debate. In the past, others and I have spoken many times about the unscrupulous elements who exploitatively import puppies in horrific conditions, so today I will focus on the ear cropping of dogs and the need to ban the importation of shark fins.

As we have heard, ear cropping in dogs is vile, mutilating dogs’ ears for so-called aesthetic reasons. It is illegal in the UK and the EU, but it continues to be a challenge. Dogs that have their ears cropped undergo an incredibly painful procedure, typically with no pain relief, and are vulnerable to infection as a result. The practice has the potential to influence a dog’s behaviour, welfare and quality of life. As dogs use their ears to communicate, ear cropping can impact a dog’s relationship with other dogs and with people.

The RSPCA has reported a 621% increase in the number of cases between 2015 and 2019. That is truly shocking. Loopholes in current legislation mean that it is legal to sell ear-cropped dogs and to import dogs with cropped ears from abroad. These loopholes act as a smokescreen for those who illegally crop dogs’ ears inside the UK. If the ban on ear cropping in the UK is to truly safeguard dogs, as is the intention, then banning the importation of dogs with cropped ears into the UK is vital. That would allow much more robust enforcement action to be taken against those cropping dogs’ ears in the UK.

In addition, the law should make it clear that arranging to take a dog abroad for the purposes of cropping is an offence. The Scottish Government are looking seriously at that. Work on that would be carried out most effectively with a co-ordinated set of actions across the UK, so I am sure that the Minister will seek to liaise with the Scottish Government on that important issue.

The petition on the importation of shark fins is also very important. The shark population is declining rapidly on a global scale, because humans have now replaced sharks as the ocean’s top predator. The shark population has been severely impacted by the horrific practice of shark finning, which is the process of slicing off a shark’s fin and discarding the rest of the still-living animal into the ocean where, unable to swim, it sinks to the bottom and dies a slow and painful death.

Shark fins are considered a real prize for some fishermen because they have a high monetary and cultural value. Conservation, advocacy and education have cut China’s consumption of shark fins by 80% since 2011. Sadly, that has been offset by a rise in the consumption of this fish in places such as Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia.

In order to protect the shark as a species, given the terrible cruelty the practice inflicts on the sharks and the vital role sharks play in our ocean ecosystem health, I urge the Minister to do all she can to guide progress on banning the importation of shark fins, following the Government’s announcement on the global shark-fin trade last month. It is important that action proceeds with all due haste, sending a clear signal that we will have no truck with such a cruel and shocking practice. I conclude my remarks, Mr Mundell, and I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response.

David Mundell Portrait David Mundell (in the Chair)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Thank you, Ms Gibson, particularly for sticking to the time limit. I hope James Daly, whom I will call next, will follow your example.