New Prime Minister Sunak Urged to “Rescue” Manifesto Pledges for Animals

There have been concerns the UK Government is abandoning its commitments.

New Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has been urged not to “trample on” his Party’s plans for animal welfare, by ensuring the stalled Kept Animals Bill is given Parliamentary time as soon as possible.

The RSPCA hopes the new Prime Minister is ready to revive the law, which has been in limbo and “missing in action” since November 2021 – as new bombshell polling shows the public support the law’s key pledges in huge numbers.

Calls have been backed by Henry Dimbleby, author of the independent National Food Strategy and the UK Government’s food tsar, who has previously called for animal welfare not to be sacrificed in a “bonfire of red tape” – but believes Sunak can offer “renewed hope” for animal welfare’s place on the policy agenda.

Amid claims PM Sunak is set to return to the contents of the 2019 Conservative Party manifesto for his policy agenda, the RSPCA hopes bringing the Bill back before Parliament after “one year in the wilderness” will help ensure the UK Government prioritises animal welfare, and meets its manifesto pledges.

Before entering Downing Street today, PM Sunak said he would “deliver” on the manifesto. Ahead of the 2019 General Election, the Conservative Party pledged to:

  • crack down on the illegal smuggling of dogs and puppies;

  • end excessively long journeys for slaughter and fattening;

  • ban the keeping of primates as pets

Sunak has appointed Therese Coffey as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

The Kept Animals Bill commits to these pledges – by banning the live transport of animals, placing restrictions on the keeping of primates as pets and ending the importation of puppies with cropped ears; as well as other pro-animal measures such as dealing with pet theft and tackling livestock worrying.

However – despite being introduced under the premiership of Boris Johnson after the 2019 General Election – the Bill has seen no action since Committee stage in November 2021; and there’s ongoing concern from the RSPCA that it could be on the verge of collapse without renewed impetus from the new Prime Minister Sunak.

New polling from the RSPCA shows huge public support for policies contained within the Kept Animals Bill – demonstrating the public appetite for the new Prime Minister to revive this stalled legislation. The polling found:

  • 80% of the public support prohibiting the keeping of primates as pets, including 65% who strongly support it

  • 54% of the public support a ban on live exports with only 10% against it

  • 86% of the public support a ban on the import of puppies under six months with only 8% opposing it

  • 76% of the public support a ban on the import of dogs with cropped ears with only 9% opposing it

  • 81% of the public support making dog theft a specific offence with only 4% opposing it

Emma Slawinski, RSPCA director of policy, said: “As the new Prime Minister pledges to dust off the Conservative Party manifesto of 2019, we’d urge him to start by reviving the missing-in-action Kept Animals Bill, and avoid any risk of trampling on this country’s animal welfare legacy.

“The law promised to do so much for animals – including meeting some key manifesto commitments that brought the Conservative Party back into office in 2019.

“From ending live transport, to restricting primates as pets, and ending the cruel importation of pups with cropped ears, this Bill has the potential to do so much for animals – and it is heartbreaking to speculate that all the progress made in bringing it forward could be lost if UK Government inaction continues. Rishi Sunak now has the perfect chance to address that head on and rescue it. .

“We know these policy pledges are not only the right thing to do for animals – but hugely popular with the public. New polling for the RSPCA found an overwhelming majority of respondents backing every single proposal contained within the Kept Animals Bill – so, why delay any more? After one year in the wilderness, we eagerly await the UK Government getting the Kept Animals Bill over the line and changing the lives of millions of animals for the better, in one go.”

Henry Dimbleby renews calls for action

The call comes after Henry Dimbleby, non-executive board member at Defra and co-founder of LEON restaurants, issued a rallying cry for the UK Government not to let animal welfare standards fall in a “bonfire of red tape”, while delivering the inaugural RSPCA Wilberforce lecture last week (October 19).

Henry now believes the new Prime Minister must ensure this long-promised Bill becomes a reality – and that anything else would be “madness”.

He said: “This law has been in the making for literally decades.

“The cruel and unnecessary practice of live animal transport was rightly a manifesto commitment for this government and it is one they must not renege on.

“We have a global reputation on animal welfare that has been hard-earned, it would be madness to trash it – but the arrival of Rishi Sunak to Downing Street offers renewed hope that the Kept Animals Bill can be saved and our worldwide standing for animal welfare standards secured.”

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