Scottish Animal Welfare Commission minutes: 9 February 2024

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 9 February 2024.

Attendees and apologies

Scottish Animal Welfare Commission (SAWC) members

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

Animal Welfare Committee

  • Professor Madeleine Campbell, Chair

Royal Veterinary College

  • Dr Dan O'Neill

Scottish Government

  • Andrew Voas, Veterinary Head of Animal Welfare
  • Andy McKinlay, Policy Officer and Secretariat Support, Animal Welfare Team

Items and actions


The Chair welcomed the members to the first plenary meeting of 2024.  She also welcomed Professor Madeleine Campbell, Chair of the Animal Welfare Committee (AWC), who joined the meeting to give an update on current AWC activity.

Updates and Activity since last plenary meeting


Professor Madeleine Campbell provided an update on some of the ongoing work by AWC, including activity around the following areas:

  • Precision breeding and animal welfare
  • Livestock breeding
  • Fur – responsible sourcing
  • Welfare implications of feline breeding practices
  • Welfare implications of specialised canine reproductive practices
  • Poultry culling and nitrogen foam
  • Avian influenza
  • Culling of male chicks

The AWC plenary will take place in Edinburgh on 9th May 2024.


Since the last plenary meeting in November 2023:

SAWC published:

  • a letter to and response from the Minister for Energy and the Environment outlining its opinion on the pinioning of ornamental birds
  • a letter to the Minister for Victims and Community Safety outlining its welfare concerns around the XL Bully type dogs situation

Following representation at a RAI Committee evidence session on a proposed ban on the use of snares in Scotland on 8 November, SAWC provided the RAI Committee with additional written information and views.

SAWC responded to a parliamentary consultation on the Agriculture and Rural Communities (Scotland) Bill.

SAWC is also drafting a response to a Scottish Government consultation on managing deer for climate and nature which is due to issue by 29 March.

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

Scottish Government

There has been a Ministerial reshuffle, with Jim Fairlie MSP appointed as the new Minister for Agriculture and Connectivity.  It is expected that he will take on the animal welfare portfolio.

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 and pet imports.

Work on the following bills is ongoing:

  • Welfare of Dogs (Scotland) Bill
  • Work on the Wildlife Management and Muirburn (Scotland) Bill
  • Work on the Agriculture and Rural Communities (Scotland) Bill

A public consultation has been launched on a proposal for a Bill to promote the welfare of greyhounds by introducing an offence of permitting a greyhound to race at racetracks in Scotland.

XL Bullies – licensed keeping regulations start from 23 February.

A Deer Management Consultation has been launched, which SAWC intends to respond to (see SAWC updates section above).

A consultation on phasing out cages for laying hens is nearly finalised and will be launched soon.

Work is ongoing in several other areas, including on:

  • Animal health and wildlife welfare
  • Sheep guidance
  • Castration and tail docking of lambs
  • Amending welfare of farm animal regulations to allow for the now published pig welfare guidance
  • Fish killing
  • Zoo standards

Work Group Updates


The working group has continued to discuss the issue of cleaner fish and read the available literature.  A field visit is being planned in order to see first hand an operational cleaner fish facility.

Dog Training

Ongoing discussions on other aversive training measures.


Ongoing discussions on fish sentience and their capabilities, and perceived inconsistencies in the existing legislation.

Wildlife Welfare

SAWC provided the Rural Affairs and Islands Committee with additional information and views following its attendance at a committee meeting on the Wildlife Management and Muirburn (Scotland) Bill on 8 November 2023 (referenced above, in the SAWC general updates).

Ongoing discussions on the issue of translocations and reintroductions.

Another catch up with NatureScot is being planned for March.

The next Wild Animal Welfare Committee (WAWC) meeting is on wildlife management, and will be held in Edinburgh and online. SAWC members were encouraged to participate should they have availability.

Local Authorities Handling Animal Welfare Issues

The working group continues to discuss these issues. 

Responsible Cat Ownership

Ongoing discussions around issues of microchipping, vaccination and neutering, the management of feral cat numbers and risks to wildcats through hybridisation.  Members have concluded gathering evidence and are beginning to draft a written opinion.

Slaughter and Mobile Abattoirs

This working group continues to discuss issues around slaughter and mobile abattoirs, and has begun engaging with various stakeholders and gathering evidence in relation to animal movements to slaughter in Scotland.

Work Plan Discussion

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

Presentation on the breeding of brachycephalic dogs

The Chair welcomed Dr Dan O’Neill of the Royal Veterinary College, who delivered a presentation on the welfare issues associated with the breeding of brachycephalic dogs.

Next Meeting/s

The next plenary meeting will take place on 8th May 2024.

Any other business

Other issues raised and discussed included:

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