Jim Paice branded ‘the worse animal welfare minister in living memory’

Posted on the 19th May 2011

In just 12 months, Defra’s Jim Paice has:
Refused to ban wild animals in circuses… Overturned a ban on battery cages for ‘game birds’… As Hunting and Shooting Minister, committed to a repeal of the Hunting Act... Routinely voiced his support for a badger cull… Ended badger vaccination trials... Dropped charges against slaughterhouse offenders… Reduced the number of vets at markets... Stated his intention to reduce on-farm inspections... Declared his support for the offspring of cloned animals to be killed for their meat and milk... Backed the ‘sustainable intensification’ of the ‘livestock’ industry.

Animal Aid says: It’s time for the ‘Animal Welfare’ Minister to go

Since the Animal Welfare Minister Jim Paice took the reins at Defra a year ago, there has been a cascade of measures designed to weaken animal protection, with the latest – not to ban wild animals in circuses – being based on ‘legal advice’, which turned out to be wrong.

The pro-hunt, pro-shoot, pro-intensive farming Jim Paice was a surprise choice to make Animal Welfare Minister. Over the past 12 months, his dogged determination to unravel animal protection laws and Codes has been the hallmark of his appointment.

Within weeks of taking office, Jim Paice, withdrew a Code of Practice for ‘game bird’ production. The Code, introduced in the final weeks of the Labour government, effectively banned the use of battery cages for breeding pheasants. The Code was the product of years of evidence-gathering and public consultation, and the cage ban even had the support of Britain’s leading pro-shooting lobby group, the British Association for Shooting and Conservation. But Jim Paice swept all this aside, scrapping the Code and replacing it with a watered-down version, that allowed the cages to remain, albeit in their so-called ‘enriched’ form. He withdrew the Code while he was still a Director of the pro-shooting Game and Wildlife Conservancy Trust.

Mr Paice also wasted little time in overturning the policies designed to deal with bovine TB in wild populations. Where the Labour government opposed a badger cull on scientific grounds and instead introduced a trial vaccination of badgers in six areas, Jim Paice has stated that his government will press ahead with a badger cull as soon as is ‘practically possible’. It has also scaled back the trial vaccination programme to just one area.

In September last year, Defra announced that it was dropping all charges relating to animal cruelty in slaughterhouses following Animal Aid’s groundbreaking undercover work. The footage obtained showed animals being kicked, beaten, goaded, improperly stunned and decapitated while still alive and – under the previous government – Defra brought charges against nine workers and four slaughterhouse operators. But with a change of government and Jim Paice’s appointment, new ‘legal advice’ suddenly suggested that the prosecutions would not be successful and all charges were dropped. Animal Aid’s own legal advice indicated that the prosecutions could have been successful and should be put to the courts to decide, not a Defra Minister with strong industry allegiances.

Other backward steps that came in quick succession were:

  • Markedly reducing veterinary cover in ‘livestock’ markets
  • Promising to de-regulate the farming industry and emphasising his interest in reducing on-farm inspections
  • Declaring his support for the offspring of cloned farmed animals to be killed and their meat and milk sold
  • Spelling out his support for ‘sustainable intensification’ in the animal farming industry
  • Reiterating plans to repeal the Hunting Act

Says Animal Aid Director, Andrew Tyler:

‘By any objective measure, Jim Paice is the worst Animal Welfare Minister in living memory. In just one year, he has systematically set about removing a raft of popular measures that provided important protection for farmed and wild animals. The appointment of the first-ever Hunting and Shooting Minister was an unmistakable clue as to the new government’s intentions, and this most recent subterfuge – to deny falsely that he has the authority to ban the use of wild animals in circuses – is the final straw. Jim Paice is a disgrace to animal welfare. He must resign immediately.’

Notes to Editors

  • To arrange an interview, contact Andrew Tyler or Kate Fowler on 01732 364546
  • Images are available on request.
  • We have an ISDN line available for broadcast-quality interviews.

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