Animal Aid

Animal Welfare Bill betrays gamebirds and exotic pets

Posted 14 October 2005

Key aspects of the newly published Animal Welfare Bill represent a betrayal of millions of animals, according to Animal Aid. While the national campaign group welcomes the new 'duty of care' designed to prevent suffering, and also the proposed strengthened penalties, it is deeply disappointed that the factory-farming of gamebirds for 'sport shooting' is to get a government seal of approval.

Defra's desire to legalise one-day pet fairs - such events being currently illegal for welfare reasons - would also have massive negative welfare and public health consequences.

Gamebird Production

More than 35 million pheasants and partridges are mass-produced every year in intensive conditions. They are released prior to the shooting season, which runs from Sept 1st to Feb 1st. Pro-bloodsports magazines themselves acknowledge that many of the birds are not eaten - some are buried, others are burnt.

Despite being presented with a wealth of compelling evidence as to the birds' suffering within battery cages, sheds and pens, Defra wants to legitimise such practices. The game industry's self-serving code of practice will form the basis of the new government code. Furthermore, new 'research' that is meant to inform the code has not only been commissioned from a pro-shooting lobby group (The Game Conservancy Trust), but the methods and scope of the proposed research are both limited and suspect.

Two of the provisions of the new Bill require that animals be provided with 'a suitable environment in which to live' and have 'the ability to express normal behaviour'. Adherence to such requirements would mean an end to the gamebird factory farming regime.

Pet fairs

Rogue councils continue to permit one-day pet fairs at which, typically, reptiles or exotic birds are put up for sale by itinerant traders. Many of the animals are wild-caught. Such events are currently illegal under a 1983 Amendment to the 1951 Pet Animals Act. This prohibition has in recent years been confirmed by a number of court cases, local authority rulings and other expert opinion. Animals at pet fairs suffer grievously as a result of the conditions in which they are held for sale, and during the journey to and from the events. Test purchases have repeatedly shown that animals are seriously diseased - some subsequently dying or having to be euthanased within days. There is the additional major concern of disease transmission to the public.

Defra proposes that pet fairs should be licensed. Such a move would place an impossible burden upon local authorities. These events, in Animal Aid's view, cannot be properly regulated and should not be legalised.

Said Animal Aid Director, Andrew Tyler:

"The provisions in the new Bill relating to pet fairs and gamebird production will cause - if implemented - immense suffering to millions of animals. During the preparation of the Bill, Defra was given good advice from both animal welfare bodies and backbench MP's, but it has chosen to align itself with animal dealers and the shooting lobby. The battle is just beginning - Animal Aid will seek support from parliamentarians with a genuine interest in animal protection to ensure that the Act that finally emerges will serve the animals and not those who exploit them."

Notes to Editors

  • For full background see the pheasant shooting campaign index

  • For more information, contact Andrew Tyler or Chris Anderson on 01732 364546.
  • We have an ISDN line for broadcast quality interviews

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