Labour has published a wide-ranging strategy for boosting animal welfare in the UK, including enshrining animal sentience in law, reviewing animal testing and banning foie gras.
The plan will be seen as an attempt to regain the political ground from the Conservatives after a number of animal-friendly policies announced by the Government in recent months.
Labour’s 50-point plan of policies it would consider implementing in government includes measures to ban the export of animals for slaughter and make vet costs more affordable for people on low incomes.
In a controversial move, the party also said it would consult on proposals to force landlords to let tenants keep pets in their properties, unless it can be proved that the animal is causing problems.
Another potentially contentious pledge relates to a review of animal testing with a view to “improving practice” and “increasing transparency”.
Labour also said it would tighten laws on fox-hunting and ban the importation of foie gras, which is made by fattening ducks to an unhealthy extent before killing them.
The plan, titled “Animal Welfare for the Many, Not the Few” will now be the subject of a consultation.
The move follows the Government announcing several policies designed to boost the welfare of animals, and makes the issue of animal rights a key battleground between the two main parties.
Late last year, Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary, pledged to toughen punishments for animal abusers and enshrine in law the principle that animals can “feel pain and suffering”. He also put forward proposals to make CCTV compulsory in slaughterhouses.
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The spate of initiatives came on the back of criticism of the Government over a range of animal rights issues. The Conservatives’ manifesto at the last election included a pledge to hold a free vote on legalising fox hunting, despite widespread public opposition, and also ditched a promise to ban ivory trading.
Ministers have also faced criticism for refusing to transfer into UK law an EU statue on animal sentience.
Announcing its plans, Labour said it would also appoint a national Animal Welfare Commissioner to ensure government departments are making moves to protect animals.
Sue Hayman, the Shadow Environment Secretary, said: “Labour is the party of animal welfare. From bringing in the ban on fox hunting to tightening the rules on the transport of live animals, Labour has always been consistent in our leadership on matters of animal welfare.
“Today we’re making proposals for real, long-term progress. Our vision is one where no animal is made to suffer unnecessary pain and we continue to drive up standards and practice in line with the most recent advances and understanding.
“With new trade deals on the horizon and the UK no longer subject to EU-wide rules on animal welfare, we want to ensure there is a comprehensive legislative agenda in place so that the UK becomes a world leader on animal rights.”
Also included in the plan are pledges to end the badger cull, force motorists to report accidents involving animals, stop third parties selling puppies and the party siad it would make it compulsory for all meat products to be labelled with information on how the animal was reared and killed.
The announcement sets the scene for animal rights to become a key area of focus for the two main parties in the lead-up to the next election.
It was reported late last year that Downing Street had urged ministers to put forward environment-friendly policies in a bid to win over voters, including young people whose support the Tories failed to attract in 2017.
Labour’s strategy was welcomed by animal right groups.
Eduardo Gonçalves, Chief Executive at the League Against Cruel Sports, said: “We warmly welcome Labour’s commitment to strengthening the Hunting Act 2004, and look forward to contributing to the consultation process. It’s clear that hunts are routinely flouting the law and continuing to kill wildlife across Britain, whether that be through so-called ‘trail hunting’ or by exploiting legal loopholes. This must stop.”
Ben Stafford, Head of Campaigns at WWF, said: “If we want our children and grandchildren to live in a world where elephants still roam and the oceans have more fish than plastic, we need a political race to the top on the environment. So it’s great to see Labour committing today to tackling the illegal wildlife trade and to strong protection for our seas.”
However, Conservative MP Steve Double MP said: “Labour are belatedly playing catch-up with the huge progress made by this Government on animal welfare.
“However, Labour wouldn’t even be able to deliver some of these promises because they want to keep following EU rules after Brexit. From introducing mandatory CCTV into slaughter houses to increasing the maximum sentence for animal cruelty ten-fold, the Conservatives will continue taking the action needed to ensure animals receive the proper protection they deserve.”