Animal Aid asks: ‘Is this the worst government for animals ever?’

Posted on the 26th September 2011

Circus animals; game birds; animals in markets; animals at slaughter; animals on farms; hunted species; badgers; parakeets; animals in laboratories - all have been let down by the Coalition.

As preparations for the Conservative Party Conference are underway, Animal Aid has catalogued a ā€˜trail of destructionā€™ left by Conservative Ministers and their departments. The worst offender, according to the campaign group, remains the Animal Welfare Minister, Jim Paice.

Within weeks of taking office – and while he was still a Director of the pro-shoot Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust – Jim Paice withdrew a Code of Practice for ā€˜game birdā€™ production. The Code had been introduced in the final weeks of the Labour government and effectively banned the use of battery cages for breeding pheasants. Jim Paice made it a priority to overturn this Code and replaced it with a watered-down version, condemning breeding pheasants to a caged existence.

Since coming to power Paice has also: overseen a significant reduction in veterinary cover at ā€˜livestockā€™ markets; scrapped all previous Defra plans to prosecute slaughterhouse workers and operators using undercover footage; pushed for deregulation of the farming industry; consistently expressed his support for a repeal of the Hunting Act; and authorised a cull of the much-loved parakeets who live freely in and around London. Before the cull began, there were estimated to be just 78-87 birds.

Paiceā€™s department has also consistently misled the public about the possibility of introducing CCTV into all slaughterhouses. After months of implying Defraā€™s hands were tied, Animal Aid sought clarification from the European Commission, which confirmed Paice could – if he so chose – compel slaughterhouses to install cameras.

His most high profile failures – and ones that are likely to cost him politically – however, are the badger cull and the failure to ban circuses from using wild animals.

Despite overwhelming public opposition to a badger cull, and the previous Labour government refusing to sanction a cull on scientific grounds, Paice scaled back the badger vaccination trial from six areas to just one, and has spent the past 16 months promising that he will do all he can to deliver a badger cull. A pilot cull is set to start in the spring.

Arguably his least finest hour came in May, when he was forced to admit to the House of Commons that the reasons he had given for not banning the use of wild animals in circuses – that a lawsuit in Austria precluded it – was untrue. Despite MPs voting for a ban and 94 per cent of the public wanting it, Defra has still failed to act.

It is not just Defra that has failed in its duty to protect animals – the Home Office, which regulates and facilitates animal experimentation, has taken a similar retrograde step. While it is the Liberal Democrat Lynne Featherstone who holds the brief, the Home Office is under the leadership of Conservative Secretary of State Theresa May. Together, the Coalition pledged to bring down the numbers of animals used in laboratories, only to preside over a three per cent increase to 3.7 million experiments.

Says Kate Fowler, Head of Campaigns at Animal Aid:

ā€˜This government could hardly have done more to damage animal protection and the ā€œAnimal Welfare Ministerā€, Jim Paice, ought to be utterly ashamed. He has misled the House over circuses, misled the public over CCTV in abattoirs and has systematically weakened animal protection measures right across the board. Despite his dire track record, however, he could still redeem himself. But he needs to do three things: call off the badger cull; enact a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses and make CCTV mandatory for all slaughterhouses. Nothing less will rid the Conservatives of their Nasty Party reputation.ā€™

Additional Information

  • Animal Aid has long been concerned over the conflict of interest at Defra. After a year of lobbying, the department was stripped of its prosecution function this September. However, three of the four Ministers are also farmers and the fourth worked for the National Farmers Union before going into politics.
  • Additional information about battery cages for pheasants can be foundĀ here.
  • Additional information about our slaughterhouse campaign can be foundĀ here.
  • Additional information about the campaign to end the use of wild animals in circuses can be foundĀ here.
  • Additional information our campaign against animal experiments can be foundĀ here.

Notes to Editors

  • To arrange an interview, call Kate Fowler or Andrew Tyler on 01732 364546 (out of hours 07918 083 774).
  • We have an ISDN line available for broadcast quality interviews.

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