Ministers scrap animal welfare bill designed to protect pets, livestock and wild animals

Environment minister Mark Spencer said the government was "fully committed" to policies protecting animals. Credit: PA

By Lewis Denison, ITV News Westminster Producer

Legislation designed to protect pets, livestock and wild animals has been scrapped, the government has confirmed.

Environment minister Mark Spencer said the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill, which had almost completed its passage through the Commons, will no longer go ahead over concerns that Labour was seeking to widen its scope.

The Bill sought to tackle puppy smuggling by reducing the number of pets (dogs, cats and ferrets) that can travel under pet travel rules and see a ban on the export of live animals for slaughter and fattening.

Other policies within the Bill would have banned the keeping of primates as pets, protect livestock from dangerous and out of control dogs and ensure zoos are doing more to contribute to conservation.

Mr Spencer insisted the government remained "fully committed to delivering" on those promises but would do so by taking the measures forward individually rather than collectively.

But Labour said the move is "further proof that you can’t trust the Tories to deliver on animal welfare".

Shadow Environment Secretary Jim McMahon added: “The government’s decision to scrap the Kept Animals Bill demonstrates that it has lost the ability to get its own legislation through Parliament."

Battersea Dogs and Cats Home tweeted to say it was "deeply disappointed" about the Bill being withdrawn.

"This is a major setback for both animal welfare and our community of animal lovers," it said.

Explaining why the Bill was being scrapped, Mr Spencer said: “Unfortunately this multi-issue nature means that there has been considerable scope creep. “The Bill risked being extended far beyond the original commitments in the manifesto and the action plan. “And in particular, Labour is clearly determined to play political games by widening the scope of this Bill.”

He said “enormous progress” on animal welfare has already been made with “single-issue” legislation, adding: “Therefore we will be taking forward measures in the Kept Animals Bill individually during the remainder of this Parliament.

“We remain fully committed to delivering our manifesto commitments. And this approach is now the surest and quickest way of doing so, rather than letting it be mired in political game-playing.”

Labour’s shadow Commons leader Thangam Debbonaire said the move was “shocking”.

Speaking in the Commons before the legislation was scrapped, she asked: “Is this prime minister so weak he can’t even bring himself to stand up against evil puppy smugglers? What a way to run a government.”

The Bill had already suffered long delays since it was first introduced in June 2021.

Senior director of campaigns and public affairs at Humane Society International/UK, Claire Bass, said: "The government's decision to abandon the Kept Animals Bill is an astonishing betrayal of both animals and public trust."

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She added: "It needed only a few more hours in the Commons to succeed, so parliamentary time is clearly not the real issue here.

"The real reason, Whitehall sources tell us, that the Bill has been dropped is because of concerns that it could act as a vehicle for uncomfortable debates that the government does not want held on polarising issues such as hunting with dogs.

"Vital protections for dogs, calves, sheep, primates and other animals have been sacrificed today at the government's altar of self-serving political convenience.

"We'll of course back delivery of these commitments as private members' bills, but this is a high risk strategy, and indicative of the low priority the government now evidently places on animal welfare."

The Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation said it was "disappointed", adding: "We believe this represents a missed opportunity to further enhance the welfare and protection of animals across the United Kingdom."