I hope all readers of the Chronicle had some time off over Christmas for a restful break and my best wishes to everyone for 2018.
In politics, campaigning at a national and local level on issues of concern is very normal. And I often receive emails and letters in my post bag from constituents on single issue campaigns, often of a national nature, but of course on matters which matter greatly to local people.
Before the year end there was a big surge of emails about animal welfare in my postbag. There was concern that I, along with other government MPs, had by voting against a proposed amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill voted to weaken protection for animals. This was simply untrue. The vote against new Clause 30 was not a vote against the idea that animals are sentient and feel pain. It was simply a rejection of a faulty amendment which would not have achieved its stated aims of providing appropriate protection for animals.
These facts did not stop the purveyors of fake news going into overdrive, particularly on twitter. It saddens me that the spreading of fake news through mediums like twitter has become such a corrosive norm in public dialogue.
I am an animal lover and the Government has done a great deal to promote animal welfare and cement the UK’s position as a global leader in this area. Recent steps include announcing plans to make CCTV mandatory in all abattoirs to ensure animals are treated humanely at the end of their lives, banning microbeads that can harm marine life and introducing Europe’s most comprehensive ban on the ivory trade, to protect the lives of endangered elephants.
I am also delighted that the Government has published a draft Animal Welfare (Sentencing and Recognition of Sentience) Bill. It sets out that the Government “must have regard to the welfare needs of animals as sentient beings in formulating and implementing government policy”. At the same time, the law will also increase the sentences available to the courts in the most severe cases of animal cruelty to up to five years’ imprisonment. Subject to consultation, Ministers will legislate to deliver both aims.
Everyone can take part in the consultation via https://consult.defra.gov.uk/animal-health-and-welfare/consultation-on-the-animal-welfare-bill/. So please join the Government in strengthening the welfare of animals.