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Labour proposes to phase out farrowing crates

14th Feb 2018 / By Alistair Driver

The Labour Party has unveiled plans to phase out farrowing crates and use subsidies to incentivise a move away from 'intensive factory farming' systems.

Sue HaymanThe party has today published a 50-point draft policy document, ‘Animal Welfare For The Many, Not The Few,’ which will now go out for public consultation to inform the its post-Brexit animal welfare policy.

The document contains a number of eye-catching proposals, including the appointment of an Animal Welfare Commissioner 'to ensure Government policy across Whitehall is continually informed by the latest scientific evidence on animal sentience'.

The Commissioner would also ensure animal welfare standards are always considered in new legislation and are maintained in Britain’s involvement in international bodies and post-Brexit trade deals.

But the proposal to 'design post-Brexit farm subsidies to move away from intensive factory farming and bad environmental practices' will be of potential concern to the pig sector, given the range of systems deployed to produce. 

The document also proposes to: "Introduce phased ban on sow farrowing crates with a reasonable phase-out period, replacing with safe, free-farrowing systems."

Partly in a bid to differentiate UK meat from its competitors in the context of production systems, the document proposes mandatory labelling of domestic and imported meat, including country of origin, method of production and slaughter (stun or non-stun). 

The Labour Party also outlines plans to clamp down on preventative use of antibiotics in livestock.

Other proposed policies include:

  • Enshrining the principle of animal sentience in law, ensuring it covers all policy areas to prevent practices that expose animals to cruel and degrading treatment
  • Strengthening the Hunting Act to close loopholes that allow illegal hunting
  • Consult landlords on giving tenants the default right to keep pets unless there is evidence the animal is causing a nuisance
  • Establishing an independent zoo inspectorate to draw up revised standards of animal welfare
  • Total ban on imports of Foie Gras
  • Ending the badger cull
  • Requiring motorists to report accidents where an animal has been injured
  • Banning live exports of animals for slaughter or fattening and introducing mandatory CCTV in all slaughterhouses
  • Prohibiting the third party sale of puppies and tackling puppy smuggling by reintroducing rabies testing before entry into the UK
  • Working with organisations like the PDSA to expand accessibility to affordable vet care for pet owners on low incomes
  • A comprehensive review of animal testing with a view to improving practice, limiting animal suffering and increasing transparency
  • Introducing a ‘blue belt’ to protect and enhance the marine environment around the UK and our overseas territories

Sue Hayman (pictured), Labour’s Shadow Environment Secretary, said: “Labour is the party of animal welfare. From bringing in the ban on fox hunting to tightening the rules on the transport of live animals, Labour has always been consistent in our leadership on matters of animal welfare.

“Today we’re making proposals for real, long-term progress. Our vision is one where no animal is made to suffer unnecessary pain and we continue to drive up standards and practice in line with the most recent advances and understanding.

“With new trade deals on the horizon and the UK no longer subject to EU-wide rules on animal welfare, we want to ensure there is a comprehensive legislative agenda in place so that the UK becomes a world leader on animal rights.”

NPA response

NPA chief executive Zoe Davies said: "This is an ambitious document with, at first glance, some useful recommendations.

"Brexit offers an opportunity to build on the UK’s already high standards of animal welfare, and some of the policies laid out in the document will certainly help deliver that.

"British pig farmers are proud to produce quality, affordable pork to high animal welfare standards and future policy must be based on robust evidence to ensure they can continue to do so.

"With that in mind, the NPA will be keen to engage with the Labour Party in discussions about how pig farming works in reality and what defines 'intensive factory farming', given the significant differences in productions systems deployed here and in countries like the US, for example. Many factors contribute to animal welfare and environmental impact on farms. To try and link these to scale and farming system is too simplistic." 

The Labour announcement has been welcomed by the League against Cruel Sports, Compassion in World Farming and WWF.