Ministers faced a backlash from animal welfare campaigners last night after ditching flagship legislation giving new protections to farm animals and pets.
In a move that also triggered Tory anger, environment minister Mark Spencer said the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill would be abandoned despite having almost completed its progress through the Commons.
The legislation would have delivered on a string of Tory manifesto commitments, including ending live animal exports, cracking down on puppy smuggling and banning people keeping primates as pets.
Ministers had also pledged to use the law to tackle other animal welfare issues, including creating a new offence of pet abduction and tightening the law on sheep worrying.
The Bill had been dubbed ‘Carrie’s Law’ by some MPs to recognise the influence of former prime minister Boris Johnson’s wife, a leading animal welfare campaigner.
Environment minister Mark Spencer said the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill would be abandoned despite having almost completed its progress through the Commons
Mr Spencer blamed Labour for the decision by Rishi Sunak’s government to abandon the legislation
Mr Spencer blamed Labour for the decision by Rishi Sunak’s government to abandon the legislation, telling MPs the Bill had fallen victim to ‘scope creep’ due to the opposition trying to add contentious measures, including a ban on drag hunting, which the Government does not support.
Mr Spencer insisted the manifesto pledges would be met through other dedicated pieces of legislation, adding: ‘We remain fully committed to delivering our manifesto commitments.’
But Tory MPs warned that time was running out for the party to meet its commitments on animal welfare. Former minister Tracey Crouch called the delay ‘infuriating’.
Former environment secretary Theresa Villiers, who has campaigned for a ban on live exports for more than 20 years, said she was ‘frustrated and disappointed’.
And the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation, whose patrons include Mrs Johnson, said the decision was a ‘missed opportunity’.
Meanwhile, the Countryside Alliance accused anti-hunting MPs of hijacking the legislation. Chief executive Tim Bonner said: ‘It is a great shame that legislation on important welfare issues like sheep worrying has been delayed for two years by MPs who remain obsessed by hunting and other rural activities.’
Malcolm Morley, president of the British Veterinary Association, called the decision ‘extremely disappointing’, saying the legislation would have ‘prevented the immeasurable suffering of thousands of animals’.
And Emma Slawinski, of the RSPCA, said: ‘While politicians dither, animals suffer.’
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