Animal welfare - Scottish Government activity: Scottish Animal Welfare Commission review

Review of Scottish Government activity affecting the welfare of animals, as sentient beings, by the Scottish Animal Welfare Commission (SAWC).

3. UK legislation

In the 2021-2022 Programme, the Scottish Government committed to working with other UK administrations on legislation to control exports of livestock and imports of dogs, modernise zoo licensing, and control import and sale of products that raise ethical concerns such as fur.

This commitment referred to two pieces of potential Westminster legislation proposed as part of the UK government’s action plan for animal welfare, published in May 2021.

The Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill, introduced on 8 June 2021, contained provisions that would have extended to Scotland, covering the export of livestock for slaughter or fattening, the importation of dogs, cats and ferrets, and improvements to zoo licensing, as well as other changes.

The Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament supported these proposals. Regrettably, after considerable delay and uncertainty, the UK government announced on 25 May 2023 that it was withdrawing the Bill, although some of its intended measures would be taken forward as individual pieces of legislation.

A further proposed UK government bill, the Animals Abroad Bill, covering prohibitions on imports from trophy hunting, the sale and import of fur and foie gras, and the advertisement and sale of certain animal experiences overseas, such as elephant rides, was withdrawn prior to formal introduction. This bill had also been supported by the Scottish Government.

The Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill was introduced to the UK Parliament in June 2022 by Henry Smith MP, with UK government backing. This Bill would ban the import of hunting trophies into Great Britain from species listed by the Government in regulations, including those already listed in existing Wildlife Trade Regulations, unless excluded by the government. The territorial extent of the Bill is England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland as international trade is a reserved matter.

SAWC agrees with the Scottish Government that the changes proposed under both the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill and Animals Abroad Bill would have brought desirable animal welfare benefits, and regrets that progress could not be made in a more coherent way in the UK parliament.

The issue of low welfare animal activities sold to tourists abroad was also taken up at Westminster in the Animals (Low Welfare Activities Abroad) Bill lodged by Angela Richardson MP in early 2023, again with UK government backing. This Bill covers devolved matters and would have required the consent of the Scottish Parliament in order to extend to Scotland. Explaining the Scottish Ministers’ decision not to lodge a Legislative Consent Motion, the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment told the Scottish Parliament that this was due to insufficient time given by the UK government to consider the provisions of the Bill. However, she did state that she was open to considering similar proposals to restrict the advertising in Scotland of unacceptable animal experiences abroad, provided that it was done “in a manner that respects the role of the Scottish Parliament and the other important animal welfare issues that the Scottish Government wants to address”.

Proposed changes to the Zoo Licensing Act to allow more stringent conservation requirements, to be specified in licence conditions, have also been dropped by the UK government, although joint work continues to update GB guidance on zoo standards.

The 2021-2022 Programme included commitments for consultations on proposals to improve animal transport legislation, and phase out cages for gamebirds and laying hens, and farrowing crates for pigs. Apart from some continuing discussions with stakeholders on possible animal transport improvements, plans for potential joint consultations on these matters as well as animal welfare labelling were dropped by the UK Government.



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