Scottish Animal Welfare Commission minutes: March 2021

Minutes from the meeting of the Scottish Animal Welfare Commission on 11 March 2021.

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

Scottish Government

  • Ben Macpherson – Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment
  • Andrew Voas – Veterinary Head of Animal Welfare
  • Andy McKinlay – Policy Officer and Secretariat Support, Animal Welfare Team
  • Leia Fitzgerald – Team Leader, Wildlife Management Team

Items and actions

1. Welcome and Introductions

The members of the Commission introduced themselves to the Minister.

The Minister said that he was looking forward to working with SAWC and commended the members on the work they have done so far.  He said that Scotland has high standards of animal welfare protection, and that SAWC will help to improve and strengthen those protections.


2. Updates and Activity since last plenary meeting


The Chair remarked that a year has passed since SAWC’s first plenary meeting.

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

  • two reports have been published by SAWC – a response to the Deer Working Group Report and a Definition of Animal Sentience
  • the Chairs of SAWC and the Animal Welfare Commission, Peter Jinman, had a virtual meeting with the Minister on 16 February, in which they discussed complementary plans to work together.
  • SAWC responded to a request by the Parliamentary Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee, by updating on the Commission’s work plan and activity carried out thus far.
  • SAWC also provided a collective response to two Scottish Government consultations – on the Draft Strategy for Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture; and on the Opinion on the Welfare of Animals during Transport.

Scottish Government

  • the Consultation on the Opinion on the Welfare of Animals during Transport received a large number of responses.  SG will analyse the responses and produce a report in due course.
  • licensing regulations for animal sanctuaries and rehoming activities for dog, cat and rabbit breeding were approved by Parliament in February and will come into force in September.
  • work on the Protection of Livestock Bill is on-going – addition of an increase in penalties for livestock worrying by dogs of up to 12 months imprisonment and extra powers to police for taking forward their investigations.
  • Animals and Wildlife Act – the provision to end licensed killing of seals involved in attacks on fish farms has commenced.
  • SG will soon publish a report on electronic collar use.  Officials will inform SAWC’s new Dog Training Working Group when it is published, for their consideration.
  • The Zoo Welfare Fund reopened for new applications, and this closed on 10 March.

3. Work Group Updates



The Definition of Animal Sentience was finalised and published on the SAWC web page on 10 February.  It was agreed that this is a “live” definition which the work group will revisit in due course.



Work group are preparing a case study to demonstrate approaches and explain why cephalopods have been included in the definition.

Glue Traps

The work group is close to finalising its statement on glue traps.  This will shortly be

published on the SAWC web page.  Members discussed whether future consideration should be given to other kinds of traps.



Work group to work on proposal/aims in terms of looking at live traps and snares more broadly.


Exotic Pets

The work group had a very useful meeting with APHA representatives in January. The group is still considering the great volume of data they have already gathered, and are making additional requests for statements and information from stakeholders.


Work group to continue to gather data on the level of sale of exotic species and taxa being sold.  Aim to produce a paper of findings and circulate to all SAWC members for discussion at next plenary meeting.



The Wild Animal Welfare Committee announced that a virtual international conference will take 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?

Members of SAWC are among the speakers at this event.



SAWC’s collective response to the Scottish Government’s Management of Wild Deer in Scotland: Deer Working Group report was published on 3 February.  Members agreed to conclude this working group for the time being, with the potential to revisit in the future.



The newly formed working group held its first meeting in February.  Based on their discussions, a list of questions have been drafted and issued to key stakeholders.  Responses will help to better inform members of the current issues.

Dog Training

This newly formed working group held its first meeting on 3 March. 


Work group to consider existing evidence on welfare issues associated with dog training, before conducting an evidence gathering session by identifying key stakeholders and inviting them to respond to questions.


This newly formed working group held its first meeting on 2 March.  Members agreed that the initial focus should be on issues associated salmon farming, with potential to look at other fish farming in future. 


Work group to prioritise  issues to focus on, before preparing an initial paper setting out the group’s plan and aims.

4. Work Plan Discussion

Members first focused on the items listed as “medium term” in the work plan and noted that work groups focussing on dog training and salmon farming have now commenced activity.

Agreed that ear-cropping should now be included in the work plan.

It was also raised again that SAWC’s annual report on animal welfare implications of legislation should be completed and sent to the Minister by June.  It was agreed that the report should look at activity in the previous Parliament.


Secretariat to revise work plan on the web page to reflect discussions, new activity and emerging focuses, eg on ear-cropping

5. New and Emerging Issues

Increase in concerns and debate on:

  • End The Cage Age campaign, seeking to stop caged farming
  • campaign against the ear-cropping of dogs

Members also discussed other developing and prominent issues such as:

  • keeping primates as pets
  • importation of puppies
  • rehoming dogs from overseas
  • Microchipping of cats


Due to rapid increase in the number of cropped dogs being reported, members will produce a “rapid opinion” on this issue.

6. Next Meeting/s

Members agreed that the next plenary meeting should take place in June


Secretariat to set up next meeting for June.

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