The Labour party has called for new laws to strengthen the hunting act, a total ban on foie gras and an end to the badger cull as it seeks to distinguish itself from the Conservatives as the “party of animal welfare”.
Labour on Wednesday published a 50-point animal welfare draft policy which also proposes a ban on exporting live animals for slaughter and expanding affordable veterinary care. After consultation, Labour said it hopes to endorse the policies officially before the next general election.
The environment has become key political battleground, with the Conservatives keen to boost their green credentials after their poor performance in last year’s general election, when large numbers of younger voters who back green causes voted for Labour.
Theresa May generated positive headlines after pledging to eliminate avoidable plastic waste by the end of 2042.
Michael Gove, environment secretary, told the Conservative Party’s conference last year that leaving the EU single market would enable Britain to look at “restricting the live export of animals” and sources close to him insist he is supports the reform.
However, Labour has gone a step further, proposing the mandatory labelling of all domestic and imported meat, including the country of origin and production and slaughter methods.
The party is also looking to close loopholes that allow trail hunting, in which hunters and hounds follow a pre-laid scent.
This comes after Mrs May was forced to make a U-turn after offering to give MPs a free vote on repealing the hunting act, which prohibits hunting animals with dogs. During the last election she received criticism for wading into what has become one of the most emotive topics in politics, and saying that she had “always been in favour” of fox hunting with hounds.
Labour said their latest proposals, which will go out for public consultation, will be fully costed if and when they become official party policy. They include “a total ban on imports of foie gras”, the fattened duck or goose liver, as well as “ending the badger cull”.
The party also plans to consult with landlords on giving tenants a default right to own pets and exploring the potential for elderly and disabled people who move into care homes to keep their pets.
The proposals were welcomed on Tuesday by the League Against Cruel Sports, the WWF, the not-for-profit conservation organisation, and Compassion in World Farming.
Sue Hayman, 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.”
She added: “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.”
Charles Sercombe, NFU livestock board chairman, said: “The live export of animals provides a secure way to move livestock, operating under stringent transport regulations, with restricted journey times and frequent rest stops.
“It is vital that this continues after we leave the EU as the ability to export live animals provides an important option for livestock producers in selling their high value product. We would support further assurance standards to address concerns and improve transparency, to ensure we maintain the ability to trade across country borders.”
Steve Double, a Conservative 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 slaughterhouses, to increasing the maximum sentence for animal cruelty 10-fold, the Conservatives will continue taking the action needed to ensure animals receive the proper protection they deserve.”
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