Animal-loving Britain to modernise welfare laws
LONDON - Britain sought to live up to its reputation as a nation of animal-lovers this week with a plan to overhaul almost 100 years of laws covering the welfare of all animals kept by humans.
As well as domestic cats and dogs, the proposed bill will cover the welfare of all farmed, wild or exotic animals in captivity and animals used for entertainment or sport, but it will steer clear of the controversial topic of hunting, which is being handled separately.
No restrictions are planned on shooting animals for sport, such as pheasants and grouse.
\"This is not an animal rights bill, it\'s modern, streamlined animal welfare ...it\'s not a bill that gives your cat the right to sue you if it doesn\'t get the comfy chair next to the fire and 10 snacks a day,\" animal health minister Elliot Morley told reporters at a briefing outlining the proposals.
\"We believe this is a measure that really only comes up once in a century for this country to reclaim its place as a pioneer and a trend-setter in relation to high standards in animal welfare,\" he added.
Among its objectives, the proposed enabling bill will authorise regulations to ban mutilation of animals such as docking dogs tails, preventing cruelty and promoting welfare.
\"The British are generally a nation of animal lovers, but that does not stop some horrific offences taking place. We want to stop cruelty, encourage good welfare and avoid the trap of excessive legislation,\" Morley said.
Raising the age at which children can buy pets will also be tackled.
\"We know from our consultation that a very large number of pet shops are already applying a voluntary code of not selling pets to unaccompanied children under sixteen,\" Morley said.
\"It has become established as best practice and I think what we\'re doing is recognising that the best practice should become the norm,\" he added.
The opposition Green Party attacked the plan, dubbing it \"a bill of rights for pets\" that failed to address key concerns such as the conditions of animals kept for scientific research.
The (Tony) Blair government\'s record on animal rights has been a cruel disappointment. New Labour continues to be enthusiastic about vivisection but fails to invest in humane, non-animal alternatives,\" it said in a statement.
\"There is cutting-edge science that doesn\'t abuse animals, but the Blair government ignores it. The UK spends less than the cost of one animal research project a year on alternative, non-animal research,\" it added.
The plans will go forward for consultation to produce a draft bill with final legislation not seen in place before 2004.
\"I want the resulting Act of Parliament to stand the test of time. That is why it must be robust but flexible so that we can adapt with the times and in line with changing views,\" Morley said.
Story by Veronica Brown
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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