Scottish Animal Welfare Commission minutes: 8 November 2023

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 8 November 2023.

Attendees and apologies

Scottish Animal Welfare Commission (SAWC) members

  • Cathy Dwyer, Chair
  • Harvey Carruthers
  • Libby Anderson
  • Mike Radford
  • Andrew Kitchener
  • Simon Girling
  • Pete Goddard
  • Paula Boyden
  • Marie Haskell
  • Ellie Wigham

Scottish Government

  • Gillian Martin, Minister for Energy and the Environment
  • Corinne Dunthorne, Ministerial Private Secretary
  • Andrew Voas, Veterinary Head of Animal Welfare
  • Andy McKinlay, Policy Officer and Secretariat Support, Animal Welfare Team


  • Mike Flynn, SAWC
  • James Yeates, SAWC

Items and actions


The Chair welcomed the Minister to the last plenary meeting of 2023 (the Minister attended from 1000-1100).  She said she welcomes the inclusion of animal welfare in the Minister’s brief, and looks forward to constructive engagement between SAWC and the Minister in the months to come.  The Chair then provided an overview of SAWC’s role and some of the highlights of its work to date.  The other members then introduced themselves to the Minister, and provided summaries of the various work steams they have been undertaking. 

The Minister thanked SAWC for providing a comprehensive overview of its activity, and extended her gratitude for all the continued hard work it has undertaken since its establishment in 2020.  She commented on the importance of providing an objective scientific perspective about animal welfare issues, and of making recommendations, some of which don’t always meet with universal approval.  She expressed her enthusiasm for SAWC’s work and that she looked forward to working with the members.

Updates and activity since last plenary meeting


Since the last plenary meeting in August 2023:

SAWC published:

SAWC was represented at a RAI Committee evidence session on a proposed ban on the use of snares in Scotland on the morning of 8 November.  Libby Anderson represented SAWC, before joining the SAWC plenary in the afternoon.

SAWC responded to several consultations, on:

Two new working groups were set up and held initial meetings, on:

  • Slaughter and mobile abattoirs
  • Translocations and reintroductions

SAWC’s working groups have continued to work on a range of animal welfare issues (see Work Group Updates section below)

Scottish Government

  • Officials continue to monitor and work with  DEFRA on issues which may extend to Scotland or have a potential impact in Scotland.  Key interests in: livestock exports; dog and cat imports; zoo licensing
  • The Welfare of Dogs (Scotland) Bill is ongoing, with the RAI Committee taking evidence.
  • The Wildlife Management and Muirburn (Scotland) Bill is ongoing, with evidence sessions and consultations
  • The Agriculture and Rural Communities (Scotland) Bill is at stage 1, with a consultation now live (which SAWC responded to, see above)
  • The UK Animal Welfare Committee (AWC) has published a review of the welfare issues in relation to the castration and tail docking of lambs; and a report on the welfare of farmed fish at the time of slaughter.  There are ongoing discussions between stakeholders and devolved administrations looking at the AWC recommendations

Work group updates


The working group has continued to discuss the issue of cleaner fish and read the available literature.

Dog training

Ongoing discussions on other aversive training measures.

Wildlife welfare

There have been lots of recent activities relevant to wildlife welfare, including SAWC’s publication of its position statement; a committee meeting and consultation on snaring; and the setting up of a new SAWC working group focused on translocations and reintroductions (information detailed above, in the SAWC general updates).

Work group members also raised the forthcoming catch up with NatureScot, which was held on 9 November.

Local authorities handling animal welfare issues

The working group continues to discuss these issues, and will reconvene for another meeting in the new year. 

Responsible cat ownership

Members have continued to read the available literature and to talk to a number of stakeholders.  Key issues of microchipping, vaccination and neutering continue to be discussed, as well as more specific issues around the management of feral cat numbers and risks to wildcats through hybridisation.


Members plan to have a literature review around fish sentience and their capabilities, and have discussed perceived inconsistencies in the existing legislation.

Slaughter and mobile abattoirs

This working group held its first meeting at the end of October, and some of the issues which were discussed included:

  • Impact of abattoirs on communities
  • Long distance travel for animals to be slaughtered
  • Issues facing crofting and ownership of a small number of animals
  • More vulnerable animal groups
  • Resources to staff abattoirs

Translocations and reintroductions

This working group held its first meeting at the start of October.  Members have begun discussing some of the welfare issues and challenges facing these activities.

Work plan discussion

Members discussed what potential revisions should be made to the current work plan.

Update on UK Animal Welfare Committee (AWC) work

Some of the ongoing work by AWC includes activity around the following areas:

  • Avian Influenza control
  • Culling of male chicks
  • Precision breeding and animal welfare
  • Responsible sourcing of fur
  • Feline breeding practices
  • Specialised canine reproductive practices
  • Livestock breeding
  • Poultry culling and nitrogen foam
  • Welfare of pigs
  • Equines at slaughter

Next meeting/s

The next plenary meeting will take place on 9th February 2024.

Any other business

Dates have been confirmed for EuroFAWC’s next annual meeting, which will take place in Edinburgh in 2024 – 15-16th May.

Other issues raised and discussed included:

  • Pinioning of ornamental birds
  • The welfare of animals with and without a ban on trophy hunting
  • Breeding of brachycephalic dogs


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