Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs First Report
9 Proposed first tranche of secondary
legislation and codes of practice
295. In this part, we discuss the policy proposals
listed below. We understand that these proposals have been included
in the first tranche because they are either areas in which some
legislation already exists, or they are areas in respect of which
policy development is more advanced.
Proposals to be implemented by regulations made under clause
Licensing of riding schools;
licensing of dog and cat boarding; licensing of pet shops
Licensing of livery yards
Licensing of pet fairs
General licensing issues
Shift to 18-month licences
Frequency of veterinary inspections
Compulsory information leaflets
to be provided by animal vendors
Use of electronic shock collars and training
Proposals to be implemented by orders made under clause 1(5)
Allowable mutilations: tail
docking of dogs
Proposals to be implemented by codes of practice
made under clause 7
298. Riding schools, dog and cat boarding establishments
and pet shops are currently subject to legislation which requires
them to be licensed.
We understand, on the basis of additional information requested
from Defra, that the Department set up working groups, which met
between April and June, to examine these areas earlier this year.
The groups' remits all appear to have been to update existing
licensing requirements. Following the groups' reports to Defra,
the Department put forward proposals in each of these areas, "in
light of [the groups'] conclusions".
Defra proposes that licensing of riding schools and dog and cat
boarding establishments should be based on existing legislation,
whereas licensing of pet shops should be the subject of new legislation,
apparently because of the deficiencies in the existing legislation
and in order to regulate both pet shops and pet fairs.
299. Subject to our comments below about general
licensing requirements, at this stage, we have no comment to make
on the areas selected by Defra for future legislation. We
are concerned that Defra has not set out in the draft Bill document
any detail on its proposals to license riding schools, dog and
cat boarding establishments and pet shops, given that it intends
to implement these proposals within a year of the Bill being enacted.
A clear indication of the policy which Defra intends to implement
in respect of these businesses should be made available if and
when the final Bill is introduced to Parliament.
301. The little evidence we received on this issue
was supportive of Defra's proposal. The Home of Rest for Horses
described take-up of the current voluntary code as "disappointing".
At this stage, we support
Defra's proposal to introduce mandatory licensing and inspection
for all livery yards in England.
304. It is unclear whether pet fairs are legal under
the current legislation, the Pet Animals Act 1951. Section 2 of
the 1951 Act provides that:
If any person carries on a business of selling animals
as pets in any part of a street or public place, or at a stall
or barrow in a market, he shall be guilty of an offence.
When applied to pet fairs, the wording of section
2 raises several questions. Who is the relevant person carrying
on the businessthe person organising the event, the person
selling the animals, or both? What constitutes a public place?
The 1951 Act does not define this, and the term has several meanings
in law. Similarly, what constitutes a market? The 1951 Act does
not define this, either.
305. A further complication is created by section
1 of the 1951 Act, which authorises a local authority to grant
a licence to a person "to keep a pet shop at such premises
in their area as may be specified in the application." A
pet shop is defined as "the carrying on at premises of any
nature (including a private dwelling) of a business of selling
animals as pets"a definition which could arguably
catch at least some pet fairs.
Consequently, it is unclear, first whether all pet fairs would
be caught by the section 2 prohibition and, secondly, even if
a pet fair can be said not to be prohibited by section 2, whether
it would then come within the ambit of section 1, meaning that
a local authority would be empowered to license it.
306. The draft Bill does not propose to repeal or
amend sections 1 or 2, although Defra has indicated that, at the
time of making regulations on this issue, it intends to use clause
6(3)(f) to repeal the whole of the 1951 Act.
307. Strong arguments were put both for and against
Defra's proposal to legislate so that pet fairs are clearly legal,
and able to be licensed. Some witnesses strongly opposed Defra's
proposal. Animal Aid disputed Defra's description of the current
legal position as "ambiguous" and asserted that pet
fairs are clearly illegal under current legislation.
It described the proposal to licenseand thus clearly legalisepet
fairs as a "seriously retrograde" step and claimed that
any licensing regime would require a significant increase in local
Animal Aid was concerned that pet fairs created several problems:
[there are] perhaps dozens of itinerant traders,
none of whom are licensed. You do not know the conditions in which
the animals are kept before they arrive, you do not know what
is going to happen after they depart, the ones that are unsold,
etcetera. So it is enormously complex, and who do you prosecute?
308. The Born Free Foundation referred to specific
problems with exotic animals being sold at pet fairs:
[If pet fairs are legalised,] there is nothing to
stop spontaneous buying and people not knowing how to look after
exotic animals that have particular needs and particular environments
that they need to live in 
309. The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW)
was also particularly concerned about the possibility of exotic
animals being bought and sold at pet fairs, describing pet fairs
obviously, temporary; they involve the transport
of animals over, often, quite long distances; we are concerned
about some of the conditions that they are kept inin cramped
conditionsand we are concerned about the potential
transfer of disease. We believe that shows are separate and if
you want to show animals you can show them, but we do not believe
that they are necessarily the best way to sell and buy animals,
IFAW also suggested that there was a risk of disease
transmission between animals and humans at these events, referring
to an event at which "a bird was found to have psittacosis
which is a disease highly infectious to both birds and people".
310. Like IFAW, BirdsFirst drew a distinction between
events at which animals are bought and sold and events staged
solely for exhibition purposes:
With the exhibitions a lot of the pet birds have
a personal relationship with the person who is their main carer
and provider. The bird will know that person as an individual.
Even if it is just a canary or a budgie, it has a personal relationship
with that person. It is very different for a bird to be driven
up from Cornwall, to go to a sale in Newark or somewhere, then
to be sold and passed on to somebody perhaps with less knowledge
who lives in Carlisle.
311. On the other side of the debate, the Pet Care
Trust described pet fairs as:
an important outlet for hobbyist breeders
and essential to many types of animal hobbyist groups to enable
them to keep going it is a very successful way forward
for a group of people who are interested in animals to get together
and exchange information as well as animals.
The Pet Care Trust emphasised that "people who
go to fairs have the welfare of the animals uppermost in their
minds because they are interested hobbyists and the last thing
they want to do is bring back an infected animal."
312. The Federation of British Herpetologists (FBH)
stated that its guidelines recommend that a vet should be present
at every event. The FBH also said that it "always invite[d]
the RSPCA to be present" at its events and that "in
the last two years when we have had the RSPCA attend our shows
they have yet to report a problem."
The FBH did not agree with the suggestion of some witnesses that
welfare problems were more likely to arise at events at which
animals are bought and sold, as opposed to events staged solely
for exhibition purposes:
the implication seems to be that if you are
selling animals you do not care about the animals; you only care
about the sale that is entirely untrue because if
you do not care for the welfare of that animal you are going to
lose that animal, it is going to die and you are not going to
be able to sell it and make a profit. So the concern of everybody
is in the welfare of those animals, and those shows are inspected.
The FBH also described the suggestion that there
was a risk of disease transmission between animals and humans
at pet fairs as "overstated".
313. It seems to us that the first difficulty to
be dealt with in relation to the issue of pet fairs is that of
what categories of event fall within the ambit of the term "pet
fair". The term is not defined in law. It appears that it
may be used in respect of events staged purely for exhibition
purposes, including competitive exhibition purposes, as well as
events staged for the purposes of sale and purchase.
314. Defra appears to use the term "pet fairs"
to mean those shows run by hobbyists that are open to the public
and any other commercial animal fair where commercial trading
occurs, with the (sizable) exception of agricultural shows. These
are the categories of event in respect of which Defra proposes
that a licence will be required. Licences would therefore not
be required for events staged solely for competitive showing purposes
or for shows run by hobbyists that are member-only events.
315. Our discussion therefore proceeds on the basis
that the phrase "pet fair" means an organised event
at which animals are bought and sold, regardless of whether this
is the primary purpose of the event. The animals bought and sold
should not be traded for farming or agricultural purposes.
316. We consider
it vital that the legal status of pet fairs be clarified. Obviously,
the confusion caused by the wording of the Pet Animals Act 1951
is most unsatisfactory. Given the current situation is so murky,
and that the ethics of pet fairs are so hotly contested, we are
extremely concerned that Defra appears to have assumed that it
should legislate so that pet fairs are clearly legal, without
first consulting widely on this issue. Defra's
consultation letter on a proposed animal welfare Bill, which was
issued in January 2002, asked consultees only whether there should
be greater regulatory control over public and private pet fairsa
question which assumed that pet fairs should be legal, and that
the only issue was the extent to which they should be regulated.
The remit of the working group set up by Defra earlier this year
was to produce proposals for the licensing of pet fairsagain,
the group was asked to proceed on the basis that pet fairs should
be legal. Defra appears to
have proceeded straight to the question of asking how pet
fairs should be regulated, without first asking whether they should
be clearly legalised. This is a significant deficiency in
the approach adopted by Defra in updating animal welfare legislation.
We recommend that, before Defra proceeds to draft regulations
which would repeal the 1951 Act and introduce, in its place, a
licensing regime on pet fairs, it first consult on whether pet
fairs should be made unequivocally legal.
317. Currently, concerns about legality relate only
to events where selling of animals occurs, because of the wording
of the 1951 Act. By requiring events to be licensed only where
buying and selling of animals occurs, Defra apparently intends
to maintain this distinction. Presumably, this is because Defra
considers that animal welfare issues do not arise in relation
to events where animals are not bought and sold. We
recommend that Defra reappraise the basis on which its proposed
regime for licensing pet fairs is predicated.
319. The evidence we received strongly opposed the
proposal to make licences renewable at 18-month intervals, although
we acknowledge the possibility that those submitters who supported
the proposal did not feel the need to say so. Animal Defenders
International and the National Anti-Vivisection Society argued
that "setting aside animal welfare for the sake of reducing
costs to business goes against the fundamental aims of the Bill."
BirdsFirst described the proposal as "virtually nonsensical
with regard to itinerant events", such as pet fairs, which
can be annual events, or can migrate between local authorities.
320. We do not
support Defra's proposal to introduce 18-month licences, rather
than annual licences, in respect of licensing of circuses, pet
fairs, livery yards or animal sanctuaries, or in respect of any
other business currently licensed under animal welfare legislation.
The proposal would reduce the frequency with which businesses
or premises would be inspected, and would therefore not promote
the highest standards of animal welfare because it would increase
the period of time during which breaches of legislation could
go undetected. We consider that any possible benefits to business
offered by a shift to 18-month licences are outweighed by animal
welfare considerations. In particular, we consider 18-month licences
would be entirely inappropriate for itinerant, annual, often one-off
events, such as pet fairs. We therefore recommend that Defra does
not pursue its proposal to replace annual licences with 18-month
licences. In respect of pet fairs and similar events, we recommend
that a licence for a pet fair should apply to a single event only,
and that each separate event should require a separate licence.
Frequency of veterinary inspections
321. The inspection associated with an application
for a new licence, or renewal of an existing licence, may or may
not include the presence of a vet. In annex L to the RIA, Defra
gives some indication of the frequency with which it proposes
that a veterinary presence would be required at inspections. Defra
proposes that a vet should be required to be present at every
18-month inspection, except in the case of livery yards, animal
sanctuaries and dog and cat boarding establishments, where a vet
would be required to be present only once every five years.
322. We received evidence expressing concern that
the proposed frequency of veterinary attendance at inspections
was too infrequent. For example, with respect to livery yards,
the British Equine Veterinary Association recommended that a veterinary
inspector should be present at "all initial inspections"
Inspections should be carried out every 15 months
with a maximum interval of 30 months for veterinary inspections.
If the veterinary involvement is diluted further there is a real
risk of compromising the quality of these inspections and therefore
compromising the welfare of the animals kept in these yards.
323. We consider that a five-year interval between
vet-accompanied inspections is too infrequent, particularly in
the case of livery yards and animal sanctuaries, in respect of
which Defra proposes to legislate for the first time under the
draft Bill. Furthermore, the proposed five-year interval appears
to us not to mesh with the proposed 18-month licence periodDefra
surely intends to require vet-accompanied inspections every four
and a half years, or at every third licence inspection. We
recommend that vet-accompanied inspections of livery yards, animal
sanctuaries and dog and cat boarding establishments should be
required at least every two years, rather than Defra's proposed
requirement of only once every five years. If Defra accepts our
recommendation to provide for annual licences, rather than the
proposed 18-month licences, then a vet-accompanied inspection
should be required every two yearsat the time of application
and at every second licence renewal thereafter. If Defra proceeds
with its proposal to introduce 18-month licences, then a vet-accompanied
inspection should be required every 18 monthsat the time
of application and at every licence renewal thereafter.
325. Concern was expressed that compulsory information
leaflets should not be provided by an industry body such as the
Pet Care Trust. The Animal Protection Agency commented that:
Inviting pet dealers to set their own or the public's
standards of care may be akin to inviting prison inmates to devise
locks! Therefore, only genuine and fully independent expert advice
from non-trade-related sources should be invited to devise comprehensive
information on pet care.
326. We also heard suggestions from bodies including
the British Veterinary Association, Animal Aid and the International
Primate Protection League that pet fairs risked an increase in
'impulse' buying of animals by people who lack knowledge of the
welfare needs and husbandry of the animal which they are buying.
Ken Livingstone stated that he did "not feel that responsible
pet ownership can in any way be compatible with pet fairs, which
encourage impulse buying and give no recourse to follow-up information
Animal Aid argued that cases of cruelty and neglect of exotic
animals were increasing as a result of such purchases at pet fairs:
The RSPCA report a shocking 200% increase in the
number of exotic animal rescues in 2000 compared with 1999. Most
of these cases involved ill-informed owners who were unaware that
they were causing any suffering. Our investigations at bird and
reptile fairs reveal that the average stallholder possesses neither
relevant qualifications nor experience in bird or reptile husbandry.
Customers are often given misleading and inaccurate advice about
the animal's full-grown size, lifespan and complex physiological
and behavioural needs.
327. We commend
Defra on its proposed scheme to require pet vendors to issue appropriate
information about animal husbandry and care at the point of sale.
However, we are concerned that Defra has apparently failed to
consider extending this requirement beyond pet shops and dog breeding
establishments to other vendors of pet animals, such as vendors
at pet fairs and at other types of breeding establishments. It
is inconsistent to propose compulsory distribution of written
information at some pet animal vending outlets and not others.
The limitations of the proposal also risk undermining the purpose
of the clause 3 welfare offence, which seeks to promote education
about animals' welfare needs. We
therefore recommend that the proposed scheme be extended to other
vendors of pet animals. We recommend that the information which
vendors are required to provide to prospective and actual purchasers
should be able to be provided by the Pet Care Trust only if Defra
first institutes a system whereby the information is checked by
an independent, expert source prior to being published.
330. Opinion was divided on the appropriateness of
using electronic shock collars for the purposes of containing
dogs to a particular areaeffectively, as a perimeter fence,
where the electric wires are buried underground. Animals in Mind
argued that the use of electronic shock collars for perimeter
fence purposes increased the potential for dangerous situations
because dogs are likely to link the shock with the first thing
they see at the time of receiving the shock, which could lead
to attacks on children, for example.
The Kennel Club, however, drew a distinction between using electronic
shock collars for training purposes and using them to contain
dogs within a particular area without the need for fences. It
supported a ban on the former use but was satisfied that the latter
use should be permitted to continue.
331. On the other side of the argument, we received
evidence from Jennifer Dobson, an animal behaviour consultant,
and from Duncan Davidson, a veterinarian, both of whom argued
that electric collars are "an irreplaceable last resort method"
when all other methods of training a dog, including positive reinforcement,
Ms Dobson stated that, in her experience, electric collars were
not "appropriate or necessary for most dogs, or for routine
obedience training"; nor were they "suitable or effective
as a quick-fix or lazy option" for people who cannot be bothered
to train their pets.
Mr Davidson told us that collars are sometimes necessary in cases
where other training methods have failed and pointed out that,
without the use of a collar, some dogs might have to be euthanased
or kept in a way in which welfare implications might arise.
Like Jennifer Dobson, Mr Davidson suggested that banning the collars
would be difficult and would increase the risk that dog owners
might instead use inappropriate equipment.
332. PetSafe Ltd and Electronic Pet Training Systems,
a manufacturer of electronic shock collars and perimeter fence
devices, argued that its systems were already widely used in the
UK, and had been for some time:
This is a boundary fence system used by many families
for their dogs and cats for over 13 years now in the UK. Many
hundreds of radio fence owners are writing to their MPs to protest
about any hint of a ban. They feel that their pets' lives have
333. We understand from Defra that it believes the
current scientific evidence with respect to these devices to be
ambiguous and therefore considers it is not in a position to prepare
proposals either to regulate or ban them. Defra has told us it
is considering the feasibility of undertaking a research project
into the devices, as a matter of priority. If
electronic shock collars and perimeter fence devices have indeed
been in use in the UK for 13 years now, as one submitter claimed,
then we are surprised that Defra has not yet undertaken sufficient
research into these devices in order to have formed an opinion
of them, particularly given the controversy surrounding their
use. We urge Defra to undertake a process of consultation and
research about the possible regulation of these devices as soon
334. At this
stage, it seems to us that an appropriate approach to electronic
shock collars and perimeter fence devices would be to outlaw their
use for purposes of training except, perhaps, with the exception
of suitably licensed veterinarians. On the basis of the evidence
we have received, we do not oppose the use of these devices to
contain dogs within a particular area without the need for fences.
However, we emphasise that this is very
much a preliminary view; we would certainly seek to hear further
evidence on this issue before taking a view on any future draft
regulations seeking to control this area.
337. Currently, it is illegal for anyone other than
a veterinary surgeon to dock a dog's tail.
In deciding whether to dock a dog's tail, a vet is required to
have regard to guidance issued by the Royal College of Veterinary
Surgeons (RCVS). The RCVS guidance states that:
The Royal College has for many years been firmly
opposed to the docking of dogs' tails unless it can be
shown truly to be required for therapeutic or truly prophylactic
reasons Docking cannot be defined as prophylactic unless
it is undertaken for the necessary protection of the given dog
from risks to that dog of disease or of injury which is likely
to arise in the future from the retention of an entire tail
docking cannot be described as prophylactic if it is undertaken
merely on request, or just because the dog is of a particular
breed, type or conformation.
338. We received a wide spectrum of evidence on this
issue. The RSPCA, the All Party Group for Animal Welfare in the
National Assembly for Wales, the League Against Cruel Sports and
the Anti-Docking Alliance all called for a ban on docking dogs'
tails except for therapeutic reasons.
The British Association for Shooting and Conservation and the
Union of Country Sports Workers supported a ban with exemptions
for therapeutic and, in some cases, prophylactic docking, such
as for working dogs.
The Kennel Club and the Council of Docked Breeds (CDB) opposed
the CDB argued that:
the likelihood is that a ban on the docking
of non-working dogs will result in a substantial number of breeders
ceasing to breed dogs of the customarily docked breeds. Registrations
of docked breeds will fall, and there will also be a very considerable
loss from the dog world of the huge experience built up by experienced
breeders over many decades. It is our view that, in consequence,
the breeds themselves will suffer.
339. With regard to the question of whether docking
causes puppies pain, we received veterinary evidence supporting
both sides of the debate.Joseph Holmes, a veterinary surgeon,
said that, in his experience, the operation lasted 10 seconds
and puppies went straight back to sleep following the procedure.
On the other hand, Professor David Morton told us that very young
animals were more likely to feel pain than older animals and argued
that tail docking should be allowed only for therapeutic reasons
when in the best interests of the individual animal, rather than
for prophylactic or cosmetic reasons.
Both the British Veterinary Association (BVA) and the Royal College
of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) believed that docking should not
be allowed except for therapeutic or prophylactic reasons. However,
both bodies were somewhat unclear about how they proposed that
their position on prophylactic docking should be defined in practice.
The RCVS commented that:
dogs should not have their tails docked except
'for prophylactic or therapeutic reasons'therapeutic would
be quite simple; if a dog has got a badly damaged tail, that is
more than a young puppy, I do not think anybody would argue, providing
the veterinary surgeon's evidence was right and proper. It is
the "prophylactic" which is probably going to be the
The BVA submitted that "we need clear scientific
evidence which will justify [prophylactic docking]. If that evidence
is not available [then] it is not justified."
340. We consider
that tail docking in dogs should be banned for cosmetic reasons.
Tail docking should continue to be permitted for therapeutic reasons,
where it is in an animal's best welfare interests. The question
of allowing an exemption for prophylactic docking for certain
breeds or types of working dogs is more difficult. For example,
there is a risk that a whole litter of puppies which might one
day be used as working dogs could be docked as a precautionary
measure. Unless there is a system to guarantee that a docked puppy
will be used as a working dog, an exemption for prophylactic docking
risks being abused.
341. We therefore
support Defra's proposed position on this issue. To prevent an
abuse of any exemption for prophylactic docking, we recommend
that a puppy's tail should be permitted to be docked for prophylactic
reasons only where the following conditions are met:
as is currently
required by law, tail docking should be carried out only by a
the veterinarian should take
all reasonable steps to satisfy him or herself that the puppy
is of a specified breed of dog, generally used as a working dog,
or that the puppy is likely to be used as a specified type of
the veterinarian should be required
to maintain records demonstrating why he or she was satisfied
that these conditions were metfor example, a gun licence
the veterinarian should be required
to microchip any puppy which he or she docks; the microchip should
contain the details of the veterinarian who docked the puppy,
the veterinarian should provide
the owner with a certificate endorsing the tail docking; the certificate
should include the details of the veterinarian who carried out
346. The GFA and NGO expressed concern about "vagaries
in the Bill that might lead to unwarranted prosecution of gamekeepers
and game farmers" for what appear to be standard game farming
For example, they were concerned that the draft Bill should make
it clear that clipping a bird's wing for game farming purposes
could not be said to be a mutilation under clause 1(4):
within game farming the clipping of the feathers
of one wing is a very common practice before game birds are released.
This detains the bird temporarily for a few weeks within an open-top
release pen in the woodland. The idea is that the bird in the
release pen is safe; it can be looked after by the game keeper
while it is acclimatising to the wild. The feathers on the wing
that has been clipped will re-grow and, in due course, once it
is able to escape and fully adapt into the wild, the bird will
flutter out over the open-top fence and be released into the wild.
Concern was also expressed that a game keeper might
be said to have "abandoned" a bird after it has been
released into the wild, and that he or she could therefore continue
to be said be have a responsibility to take reasonable steps to
ensure the birds' welfare, under the clause 3 welfare offence.
347. The GFA and NGO also discussed the numbers of
game birds reared for sport shooting and what happens to them,
once they are released:
Approximately 20 million pheasants and
partridge are reared and released into this country each year.
About 40% of those get shot. There are some figures on
what happens to the other 50 to 60%. A proportion go on to breed
in the wild and become, effectively, part of the wild stock, a
proportion are lost to predators, a proportion, obviously, will
be taken in road accidents, although that has never been quantified,
and some, indeed, a very small proportion, will be caught up again
for breeding purposes in subsequent years.
348. By contrast, submitters from outside the game
industry were strongly critical of the GFA code. Animal Aid described
it as "thoroughly inadequate" and "self-serving".
The League against Cruel Sports (LACS) urged Defra not to accept
"the assurances of a self-regulated industry which has thus
far failed to resolve the welfare problems it faces" and
submitted that failure to abide by the terms of the proposed statutory
code of practice should itself be an offence.
These organisations were also opposed to certain game rearing
practices on welfare grounds, including wing clipping but extending
to beak trimming, fitting game birds with spectacles and with
bits, which the Farm Animal Welfare Network (FAWN) described as
"devices that are clipped into the birds' nostrils and fed
between the upper and lower beak, so preventing beak closure";
these are apparently used as anti-aggression devices.
LACS submitted that:
things like wing clipping and bitting and
burning and beak trimming all of these are done to the
bird because of the conditions in which people try to keep that
bird and the problems that are associated with that. In principle,
we would much rather they solved those problems than mutilated
the bird part of the five freedoms is for those animals
to be able to express their normal behaviour and if you are going
to stop them flying you are not meeting the requirements of the
349. LACS believed that the clause 3 welfare offence
draft Bill would apply not only to game birds that are being reared
but also to birds beyond "the point of release"meaning
that, under clause 3, gamekeepers would continue to be responsible
for taking reasonable steps to ensure the birds' welfare.
Similarly, the Wales Opponents of Pheasant Shooting claimed that
gamekeepers continued to provide food, shelter and water for game
birds even after they have been released into the wild and that
they would therefore continue to be responsible for the birds'
welfare after their release.
350. Animal Aid described the GFA and NGO's account
of the numbers of game birds reared for sport shooting and their
fate, once they are released, as:
a very anodyne presentation of what takes
place The BASC in Shooting Times a couple
of years ago talked about 35 million birds released. What
we are talking about is millions and millions of birds massproduced
inside sheds principally for the purpose of being shot,
not for eating, but for sport.
FAWN concurred with the view that "a probable
thirty million birds are reared annually for shoots" and
claimed that, of those, "only a small number
are 'caught up' from the wild, [in order] to boost the health
status of the millions that are purpose-bred".
The Wales Opponents of Pheasant Shooting claimed that "enormous
game bird releases" were necessary to fulfil the BASC's "recommended
maximum bag of 500 birds per day".
On this point, the BASC stated that it has not published a guideline
limit, but that "in practice it would advise that no more
than 500 birds per team, not per individual, should be shot".
The BASC advised that for the vast majority of shoots"perhaps
90 or 95%"bags of a fifth or a tenth of that size
would be more typical.
351. The Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) applauded
the Game Farmers' Association's "proactive stance" in
producing a voluntary code of practice but expressed surprise
that Defra suggested that there are only about 300 game farms
in England and Wales. It noted that a "more proactive assessment
of stockmanship" on game farms could be needed and that an
assessment of game rearing could be the subject of a future FAWC
352. We are disturbed that Defra considers that there
is "little concern generally" about the welfare of game
birds reared for sport shooting purposes. This conclusion is not
supported by the evidence we have received. Defra states that
it has consulted with the game farming industry on this issue.
If Defra has consulted no more widely than the industry, it is
unsurprising that it should have uncovered little concern about
the rearing of game birds. We are also concerned by FAWC's suggestion
that Defra may have underestimated the scale of game farming in
England and Wales. We recommend
that, prior to drawing up a draft code of practice on the rearing
of game birds for sport shooting purposes, Defra should ensure
that it has consulted with a broad range of groups and individuals
with an interest in this area, including those groups which are
critical of current game bird rearing practices. The Government
should ensure that it has solid data on the numbers of game farms
in England and Wales and the scale of these farms.
353. On the
basis of the evidence we have received, we do not support the
existing Game Farmers' Association code of practice being adopted
as a statutory code of practice under clause 7 without further
consideration first being given to the appropriateness of certain
rearing practices, including beak trimming and burning and the
fitting of bits, masks and spectacles. We consider that gamekeepers
should be required to try other methods first before resorting
to these practices, as currently appears to be the requirement
in relation to tail docking in piglets.
354. We are
also concerned that, of the game birds being reared, only 40%
end up being shot. Limiting the numbers
of game birds that are able to be reared could perhaps be one
way of lessening aggression amongst birds as they are being reared.
However, we have heard insufficient
evidence to draw any firm conclusion on this issue.
355. We do not
consider that gamekeepers should continue to be responsible for
taking reasonable steps to ensure the welfare of game birds once
they have been released into the wild, in terms of the clause
3 welfare offence. However, as the draft Bill stands, we consider
there is scope for prosecutions to be brought in this respect.
We recommend that the Government ensure that the protection provided
by the draft Bill does not extend to game birds once they have
been released into the wild. We have discussed
the difficulties with the clause 3(3) provision on abandonment
in greater detail in part 4.
357. In annex L to the RIA, Defra states that, in
its proposed first tranche of secondary legislation and codes
of practice, it intends to make provision with regard to "other
means of selling animals". In light of the information given
in the annexes to the RIA, we assume this phrase is intended to
include Defra's intended code of practice on internet trading.
However, Defra states that its policy with respect to "other
means of selling animals" is yet to be agreed.
358. We support
Defra's suggestion that vendors who sell pet animals over the
internet in England should be subject to a code of practice, issued
under clause 7, which would set out minimum welfare standards.
However, given that Defra describes its policy in this area as
"to be agreed", we doubt whether Defra will be in a
position to issue such a code of practice within a year of any
Bill being enacted, as is its stated intention. We recommend that
the Government assess whether it is really in a position to issue
a code of practice on internet trading within its intended timescale.