Britain has announced proposals to improve animal welfare, including a ban on puppy smuggling, trophy hunting and live animal exports. Ministers credited Brexit - the country's departure from the European Union - for allowing it to legislate on a host of practices, and enhance protections for pets and wild animals.
A series of bills will be introduced in the current parliamentary session, alongside a host of other non-legislative changes. Some of the planned laws include making it illegal to keep primates as pets, tightening import rules to tackle puppy smuggling, and ending the export of live animals for fattening and slaughter. Ministers are even exploring a ban on the sale of foie gras, and say they will bar selling ivory and importing hunting trophies from endangered animals. The law makers will also introduce a new law to recognise vertebrates as sentient beings, which have feelings such as pleasure, pain and fear.
Meanwhile, there are plans to create a new government taskforce to crack down on pet theft and fund wildlife conservation projects in the UK and overseas. The government said Brexit had given "new freedoms" in this area, and pledged to ensure animal welfare is not compromised in its future trade negotiations around the world.
"As an independent nation we are now able to go further than ever to build on our excellent track record," said George Eustice, environment secretary.
Animal welfare advocates have given the proposals a measured welcome. They, however, warned against watering down the plans, such as in relation to hunting trophy imports.
"The devil will be in the detail," said Claire Bass, executive director of Humane Society International. "The countless millions animals still suffering both here and overseas for food, fashion and our entertainment," she pointed out.
Meanwhile National Farmers Union deputy president Stuart Roberts warned the government that it should apply its beefed up livestock standards to countries like Australia, with which it is holding post-Brexit trade negotiations. "It's ridiculous increasing standards in this country but not applying that standard to countries that we're looking to do trade deals with. That's just hypocrisy," he said.
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