A new policy proposal by the Labour Party has set its sights on game birds, the Hunting Act and the badger cull as it seeks to improve animal welfare in the UK.
The Labour Party’s proposed animal welfare plan, which includes a pledge to “promote high standards with regards to game shoots”, has had a mixed reception from rural groups.
Published on the heels of the Government’s own proposed Animal Welfare Bill, the 50-point plan seeks to improve the treatment of wild, farmed and domestic animals. These proposals include a ban on the “intensive rearing” of game birds for shooting, an end to the badger cull and a pledge to “enhance and strengthen the Hunting Act”, which it says will close loopholes allowing for the illegal hunting of foxes and hares.
A public consultation on the plan has been launched by Sue Hayman, the shadow secretary of state for the environment and rural affairs.
Tim Bonner, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance, commented: “It is sad that Labour’s focus on wildlife and the countryside remains firmly motivated by politics, rather than farming, rural communities and real animal welfare issues. There are a number of sensible animal welfare policies in Labour’s plan, but these have been conflated with an animal rights agenda.
“The plan reveals a set of priorities that are at odds with most people in rural areas. There is not a single mention in this document of the epidemic of sheep worrying by domestic dogs, the widespread problems of poaching and associated criminality, the impact of sky lanterns on domestic and wild animals, or the horrific cost to cattle, farmers and the taxpayer of bovine tuberculosis.”
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Party leader Ed Miliband said: “Our Labour values tell us that we have a moral duty to treat the animals…
There does appear to be a softening stance towards shooting from Labour when comparing this new paper with the 2016 “Comprehensive animal protection reform” proposal, which called for the licensing of shooting estates, a snare ban and raising shotgun certificate costs.
BASC has offered a more positive appraisal of the new plan. It welcomed commitments to tackle raptor persecution and promote sustainability. It urged members and shooters to respond to the consultation.
Christopher Graffius, BASC’s acting chief executive, said: “It’s worth noting that this announcement is not a final policy and that Labour recognises the importance of consulting on its proposals to avoid unintended consequences.”
He added that BASC hoped to work with Labour to ensure final policies regarding shooting trophies, game rearing and gundogs were fit for purpose.
The National Gamekeepers’ Organisation (NGO) said that it feared “a confetti of vote-driven legislation” could relegate many species to “political footballs”.
It added: “The delivery of high welfare standards is already part and parcel of the gamekeeper’s working day and the NGO will remind Labour to heed those who know animals best.”