Scottish Animal Welfare Commission minutes: 15 June 2021

Minutes from the group's meeting on 15 June 2021.

Welcome and introductions

The members of the Commission introduced themselves to the Cabinet Secretary.

The Cabinet Secretary said that she was delighted to be back in the Rural Affairs portfolio and that she looked forward to working with the Commission. She commended the members on the work they have done so far, and said that the work is vital to the Scottish Government in helping to improve and strengthen animal welfare protections.

Updates and activity since last plenary meeting


The Chair remarked that a year has passed since SAWC was officially established.

A number of documents had been worked on and were circulated ahead of this plenary session, which were discussed later in the agenda (Sentience Report, Exotic Pets Report, Annual Review).

A number of activities have taken place since the last plenary meeting in March:

  • a “rapid response” on the increasingly concerning issue of ear-cropping of dogs was sent by SAWC in the form of a letter to the former Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment on 9th April
  • the Chair attended, representing SAWC, the annual meeting of EuroFAWC and made a presentation which gave an overview of SAWC’s activity in its first year of existence (described more fully in a later agenda item)
  • work has been done to design a logo for SAWC, which the Secretariat is taking forward
  • a “Ways of Working” document is being developed by SAWC, which expands on SAWC’s function and sets out how SAWC works with other agencies, such as NatureScot, Marine Scotland and APHA. It will be uploaded to the SAWC web page in due course

Scottish Government

  • The Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Act has achieved Royal Assent. This will increase available penalties and give new powers to police from 5 November
  • legislation on licensing activities involving animals has been passed and will come into force on 1 September – guidance on how it is applied in detail will be published soon
  • Animals and Wildlife Act – legislation is scheduled to go through in September, so powers will be in force by the beginning of October
  • responses to two consultations – on Animals in Transport and on Electronic Dog Collars Guidance – are being analysed and reports will be published shortly
  • Scottish Government are considering content of Queen’s Speech relevant to areas of animal welfare – e.g Kept Animals Bill, Zoo Licensing Act and Animals Abroad Bill

Work group updates


A report is being drafted by members which builds on SAWC’s previously published definition of sentience, which will demonstrate SAWC’s approaches and explain why cephalopods have been included in the definition.

Action: work group to continue work on the report, with an aim for it to be concluded by the next plenary session.

Glue traps

Members agreed that, with SAWC having published its report on the use of rodent glue traps in Scotland in March, that this work group can be concluded. Other issues around trapping may be raised in due course.

Exotic pets

The work group have agreed to produce an interim report detailing their findings so far, following months of evidence gathering. A working version was shared with members ahead of the plenary session, and discussed in detail.

Action: work group to continue to work on interim report, with a view to publishing in late summer 2021.


The Wild Animal Welfare Committee held a virtual international conference which took place on 19 April. A panel of speakers will set out to answer three key questions:

  • Wild Animal Welfare: does it matter?
  • can it be assessed?
  • how can it be optimised?

It attracted expert speakers from all over the world, and two members of SAWC were among them. 470 delegates from 41 countries posed questions to the speakers. The sessions are available to view on WAWC’s YouTube Channel.

Action: WAWC are currently teasing out key observations to highlight to a wider audience and will publish a report on the conference on their website in due course.


Members agreed that, with SAWC having published its response to the Deer Working Group Report in February, that this work group can be concluded.


The Beavers Working Group has paused its activity while a judicial review, considering the issue of licences for killing beavers, is underway.


The work group continue to discuss and identify potential welfare issues in the areas they have decided to initially focus on – salmon farming and acoustic deterrent devices.

Action: work group to begin work on the evidence gathering process on welfare issues associated with salmon farming and acoustic deterrent devices.

Dog training

The work group have been reviewing existing research papers on issues associated with dog training and training devices.

Action: work group to continue to discuss existing evidence on welfare issues associated with dog training and training devices, with the aim of drawing initial conclusions ahead of the next plenary session.

Secretariat to share further research documents with work group to consider.

SAWC annual review

Members discussed a working draft version of their Annual Review, which will report on SAWC’s functions and activities in the past year.

Action: members and Secretariat to finalise Annual Review, with the aim of sending to Scottish Ministers and laying before Scottish Parliament this summer.

SAWC legislative report

Members discussed on-going work on a report commenting on the Scottish Government’s legislation and policy related to animal welfare issues in the past year.

Action: members to finalise the report, with the aim of including it as part of the overall SAWC Annual Review document.

Work plan discussion

Members discussed updating the work plan to convey current work streams and other issues which have received focus since the initial work plan was published – e.g beavers, aquaculture, dog training and ear-cropping of dogs.

Action: secretariat to revise work plan on the web page to reflect discussions (unable to do so after last plenary as it clashed with the pre-election period), new activity and emerging focuses.

Update on Animal Welfare Committee work (AWC)

Peter Jinman provided an update on latest activity by the AWC, including focuses on:

  • fish killing
  • manual culling of piglets/lambs
  • CO2 use as a means for culling
  • vivariums related to the length of snakes
  • painful management procedures in lambs
  • future of Farming
  • wild animals kept as pets
  • sentience

Update on EuroFAWC annual meeting

The Chair provided a detailed update of her attendance, representing SAWC, at EuroFAWC's annual meeting (held virtually). 

It included 2 half days at the beginning of June, the first of which consisted of presentations by various animal welfare committees across Europe and further afield. The Chair provided a presentation giving an overview of SAWC’s work over the past year. She then gave a brief overview to SAWC of the issues raised in the other presentations, some of which were of current interest to SAWC, eg on electronic collars, definitions of sentience and welfare of fish. 

The second session was on the topic of CO2 stunning in pigs and what alternatives exist.

The group is useful to be part of and there is great potential for the network of animal welfare committees to share experiences and expertise in a range of animal welfare issues.

Next meeting(s)

Members agreed that the next plenary meetings should take place in September and December.

Action: secretariat to set up next meetings for September and December.



Attendees and apologies

Commission members

  • Cathy Dwyer – Chair
  • Harvey Carruthers
  • Andrew Kitchener
  • Mike Flynn
  • Libby Anderson
  • Mike Radford
  • Simon Girling
  • Pete Goddard
  • Marie Haskell
  • Paula Boyden
  • James Yeates

Animal welfare committee

  • Peter Jinman – Chair

Scottish Government

  • Mairi Gougeon – Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands

  • Andrew Voas – Veterinary Head of Animal Welfare

  • Andy McKinlay – Policy Officer and Secretariat Support, Animal Welfare Team
  • Leia Fitzgerald – Team Leader, Wildlife Management Team
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