Scottish Animal Welfare Commission: annual report 2022-2023

Annual report of the Scottish Animal Welfare Commission (SAWC) showing activity for the year 2022 to 2023.

3. Ways of Working

The Scottish Animal Welfare Commission (SAWC) has been established to provide independent advice to Scottish Ministers on the welfare of sentient animals, primarily wildlife and companion animals, with particular reference to:

  • how the welfare needs of sentient animals are being met by devolved policy;
  • possible legislative and non-legislative routes to further protect the welfare of sentient animals; and
  • the research requirements to provide an evidence base for future policy development.

SAWC provides written reports and opinions to Scottish Ministers (and to such others as Scottish Ministers may direct), giving practical recommendations based on scientific evidence and ethical considerations on the welfare of sentient animals in Scotland, and the impact of policy on welfare. It is required to publish any advice it provides, which is available on the SAWC website.

The Commission is required to submit an Annual Report to Scottish Ministers, which they must lay before the Scottish Parliament.

Members of SAWC are appointed in a personal capacity on the basis of their particular expertise and experience in aspects of animal welfare, which they use to consider welfare issues of relevance to animals in Scotland. They do not act as representatives of their employer or any other organisation with which they may be associated, neither are they remunerated by the Scottish Government. A Register of Members’ Interests is publicly available on the SAWC website.

SAWC provides advice on matters (i) referred to it by Scottish Ministers, (ii) referred to it by such other persons as Scottish Ministers may direct, and (iii) as the Commission itself considers appropriate. It is required to prepare an annual work plan, which must be approved by Scottish Ministers.

Plenary meetings of SAWC are held at least four times a year. These are generally physical meetings, as circumstances allow, although members unable to attend in person may do so virtually. A record of members’ attendance is included in the Annual Report. Officials from the Scottish Government Animal Welfare Team are invited to attend each meeting, with other Scottish Government officials invited to be represented, depending on each meeting's agenda.

In addition to the Annual Report, which includes a general review of developments in policy and legislation, so far as they impact on the welfare of sentient animals in Scotland, SAWC produces four types of outputs: 1) short responses to specific questions from the Minister responsible for animal welfare or other members of Scottish Government; 2) letters to Ministers on specific areas of welfare where members of SAWC feel their advice will be useful in decision-making; 3) responses to Scottish Government public consultations; and 4) following a detailed inquiry by the Commission, substantial reports which focus on a specific topic.

Responses to consultations, queries and letters to Ministers are usually drafted by an ad hoc sub-committee, although information may be sought from relevant bodies as required.

Substantial reports are prepared by Working Groups drawn from SAWC membership, but will usually require additional views and inputs from outside the Commission. For issues involving wildlife, SAWC meets with NatureScot at the inception of a working group to discuss the issue and gain background information on work to date on the area. Similarly, other agencies, such as the Animal and Plant Health Agency, may also be involved in initial meetings to provide similar background to an issue. In some instances, SAWC may co-opt an external member to a Working Group, where there is a need for additional independent expertise, although all decisions are made by SAWC alone. In evidence gathering, SAWC will approach relevant stakeholders for written and/or oral views on the issue under consideration.

All opinions, advice and recommendations provided by SAWC represent the independent, collective view of the Commission.



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