Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs First Report

10  Proposed second tranche of secondary legislation and codes of practice

360. In this part, we discuss the policy proposals listed below. We understand that that these proposals have been included in the second tranche because they deal with previously unregulated, more controversial areas where Defra believes that more extensive consultation is needed.

  • Licensing and registration of animal sanctuaries
  • Licensing the use of performing animals
  • Licensing and registration of greyhound racing tracks

361. None of these proposals could be implemented by means of orders made under clause 1(5). However, in the case of regulation of greyhound racing tracks, it is not clear whether Defra intends that these proposals should be implemented by means of regulations made under clause 6(1) or by means of codes of practice made under clause 7.

Licensing and registration of animal sanctuaries

362. Defra's proposals on the licensing and registration of animal sanctuaries are set out in annex E to the RIA. Currently, sanctuaries are unregulated. Defra proposes a two-tier scheme, whereby larger sanctuaries would be required to be licensed but smaller sanctuaries would be required only to be registered, presumably with the relevant local authority. The intention is that smaller sanctuaries would not be burdened by the compliance costs associated with licensing, which could cause some of them to close down.

363. Defra states that "it is not clear exactly how many animal sanctuaries there are in England and Wales" but that a "conservative estimate" is 700.[306] Defra considers that about half of these sanctuaries would be required to be licensed; the other half would be required to be registered.

Evidence received

364. The evidence we received appeared to accept that animal sanctuaries should be subject to some form of regulation. For example, the Dogs' Trust supported Defra's proposals, on balance:

There are very many small organisations providing animal welfare services such as rescue and sanctuary, and any legislation which increased their costs might mean some would cease their operations. Any such move would be likely to significantly reduce the overall capacity to provide welfare services and result in the suffering or euthanasia of many animals. However there are undoubtedly some such organisations with unacceptably low standards and Dogs Trust considers that registration will enable improved monitoring and thus help to raise standards generally. While there will be some costs to Dogs Trust from this proposal, we consider this to be a price worth paying for the overall welfare benefit.[307]

365. A number of submitters and witnesses raised concerns about how an "animal sanctuary" should be defined. Greyhound Rescue Wales considered that clarity was required as to "when an individual taking in a few stray animals might become a 'sanctuary'."[308] The National Equine Welfare Council emphasised that all relevant establishments should be captured by any licensing and registration scheme imposed under the draft Bill, as some relevant establishments "believe themselves to be exempt from the proposed licensing/registration [requirements] as they undertake 'rehabilitation' work and are therefore not technically a sanctuary."[309]

366. Although some submitters and witnesses welcomed the proposal that smaller sanctuaries should be exempt from the proposed requirement to be licensed, others raised concerns about whether it was appropriate. For example, the Blue Cross felt that Defra's proposal to register, rather than license, smaller establishments would "achieve very little".[310] It said that it was the smaller establishments which were of most concern, because "all too often, the smaller 'one man band' facility is mismanaged and administered and whilst the intention may be good, the consequences can be dire for the individual and the animals concerned." [311] Similarly, Nicolas de Brauwere, a veterinary surgeon employed by Redwings Horse Sanctuary, considered that "the distinction between licensing and registration of animal sanctuaries exempts those sanctuaries most likely to have substandard practices from the level of scrutiny and control most necessary".[312]

Our position

367. We recommend that, prior to publishing any draft regulations providing for the licensing and registration of animal sanctuaries, Defra consult widely in order to produce a practical definition of what types of establishment constitute an "animal sanctuary". As part of this exercise, Defra will need to establish with greater certainty how many animal sanctuaries there are in England.

368. We are concerned that Defra's proposed two-tier scheme, whereby larger sanctuaries would be required to be licensed but smaller sanctuaries would be required only to be registered, is likely to result in varying welfare standards among animal sanctuaries. Although larger sanctuaries would be subject to local authority inspections, smaller sanctuaries would presumably not be. There may well be a greater risk of welfare problems arising in the case of establishments run by only one person, where there is no one else present to observe or advise on how the animals in that establishment are treated. On the other hand, we appreciate that some fixed costs will be involved if an establishment is to be inspected, in order to cover the cost of the inspection.

369. We recommend that a licensing scheme should be extended to all animal sanctuaries, regardless of their size. We acknowledge that the imposition of the compliance costs associated with such a requirement may cause some smaller sanctuaries to close down. On balance, however, we consider it is more important that minimum animal welfare standards be ensured across all sanctuaries. In the case of some sanctuaries which may be forced to close down, such closure may in fact prove beneficial for the animals concerned.

Licensing the use of performing animals

370. In annex A to the RIA, Defra sets out proposals to regulate several areas in which performing animals are used, including circuses, television, films, theatre and promotional work. Defra proposes that all performing animal acts should be required to be licensed and subject to regular inspection by a local authority.

371. In respect of circuses using performing animals, Defra states that "due to the decline in the use and numbers of performing animals in circuses, it is not proposed to ban the use of animals in circuses". This is despite Defra's acknowledgement that there are "a number of high profile welfare groups, including the RSPCA, that would welcome the end of animal acts in circuses". Defra estimates that there are 10 circuses with animal acts in England and Wales. All performing animal acts are currently required to be registered under the Performing Animals (Regulation) Act 1925 but Defra believes that this legislation is "outdated and almost valueless from a welfare point of view." Defra also states that the Association of Circus Proprietors (ACP) has produced a voluntary code of practice on welfare in circuses and has called for better regulation.

372. In respect of television, films, theatre and promotional work using performing animals, Defra proposes that those companies which provide animals for these forms of entertainment should be required to be licensed or registered. Defra estimates that this would affect about 120 suppliers and trainers of performing animals, and notes that small amateur theatrical productions would be exempt. Although Defra clearly intends that a licensing scheme should be imposed on such companies, it is not clear what Defra intends by its reference to registration.

Evidence received

373. In respect of circuses, many organisations argued that Defra's proposals did not go far enough and that circuses should not be permitted to use performing animals. For example, Protect Our Wild Animals called for the use of animals in circuses and other entertainment to be outlawed, and noted that "the decline in performing animals is in fact a very good reason for actually banning the activity!"[313] Advocates for Animals suggested that the use of performing animals in circuses "is in most people's minds a fairly outmoded use of animals in entertainment and should no longer be permitted".[314] West Wales Animal Aid very much regretted that the Government did not propose to use the draft Bill as an "opportunity to end the suffering of animals in travelling circuses" and asked "could circus owners not be told that in five (maybe) years the keeping of wild animals will not be permitted, giving them time to dispose of their animals?"[315]

374. These organisations based their calls for banning the use of performing animals in circuses on their belief that animals suffer in circuses through transportation, temporary accommodation, cruel training methods, barren cages, an itinerant lifestyle and winter quarters.[316] For example, Animal Defenders International and the National Anti-Vivisection Society (ADI) stated that, on the basis of research and observations which it carried out between 1996 and 1998, it believed that it was "not possible for travelling circuses to provide the facilities to adequately care for their animals, and keep them healthy and happy".[317] The Associate Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare stated that "research has shown that due to [circuses'] transient nature, the circus environment cannot guarantee the ongoing high standard of care animals require".[318]

375. The Born Free Foundation provided an estimate of the numbers of circuses using performing animals:

We currently have 12 circuses with performing animals in the UK. About half of those have wild animals, so we still have one circus with an elephant, a couple of circuses with big cats, lions and tigers, and then there are zebra and various other hoof stock … there are 250 circuses in France with wild animals …[319]

Born Free drew a distinction between the use of wild animals and domestic animals in circuses. While it advocated an eventual ban on all animals performing in circuses, it called for the Government to "tackle the issue of wild animals first because, obviously, the needs of the wild animal are far greater in most respects to a domestic animal".[320] In the context of wild animals, Born Free pointed to the difference between existing legislation regulating zoos and Defra's proposals for circuses:

… the welfare of animals in circuses has become … overlooked or in fact ignored, because … in zoo legislation the needs of the wild animal are looked into, are recognised and are provided for, whereas the welfare of the wild animals in circuses has not been.[321]

376. Criticism was also levelled at the existing ACP code of practice for circuses. ADI condemned it on the grounds that:

… there are no mechanisms to set and enforce standards. The ACP is a voluntary organisation and only a small number of the circuses touring the UK are members. The ACP does not have the infrastructure, financial, or other resources necessary to make this code a working document. There is no system of inspection to enforce the code, nor to ensure that members comply with it.[322]

377. We also received evidence from organisations which supported the use of animals in circuses. The Association of Circus Proprietors (ACP) welcomed the proposals to regulate circuses, saying that it had been calling for a long time for regulation of this "surprisingly unregulated industry".[323] The ACP expressed concern that the fact that the draft Bill "does not seek to either impose standards or set down a procedure for assessing standards but merely empowers the Minister to make regulations" could mean that the use of performing animals could be seriously limited or altogether excluded without full parliamentary debate.[324] The ACP also argued that wild animals in zoos ought to be treated differently from wild animals in circuses, because "zoo animals are just being displayed [whereas] circus animals are being handled and groomed and exercised and … have this human contact in the exercise."[325]

378. The ACP also pointed out an inconsistency between annexes A and L to the RIA. Annex A refers to the licensing of circuses "which infers licensing animals"; annex L refers to licensing trainers. The ACP felt that it was therefore unclear "whether there is to be the licensing of the individual circus or trainers or whether the licensing is to be by reference to the specific animals which are used by an individual establishment."[326]

379. We received considerably less evidence about the issue of the use of performing animals in television, films, theatre and promotional work. Performing Animals Welfare Standards International (PAWSI), which represents animal trainers who work in this area, welcomed the draft Bill. PAWSI called for "all personnel who train, work with, supply and or are responsible for supplying animals to the audio visual industry [to be] licensed"; to this end, PAWSI has developed National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) Levels 2 and 3 for animal trainers in the audio-visual industries, which will shortly be available.[327] PAWSI mooted the example of the existing Zoo Licensing Act Inspectorate, which is run by Defra, as a model of how personnel who train, work with or supply animals to the audio visual industry should be licensed:

Defra maintain a list of zoo inspectors, they organise training of inspectors. They recommend or nominate inspectors to a local authority to inspectors who are in their area. There is a group of veterinary surgeons, some of who are already zoo inspectors, others who are not but are very experienced at working in the media industries which can be drawn on to produce such a list. They could be your nucleus of inspectors.[328]

380. Jim Clubb and the Animal Consultants and Trainers Organisation expressed concern that Defra proposed to exempt small amateur theatrical productions from any future regulation.[329] Mr Clubb argued that "exemption promotes the illegal use of animals and is contrary to the objectives of the Animal Welfare Bill."[330]

Our position

381. We agree with Defra that new regulation is required in respect of performing animals used in circuses, television, films, theatre and promotional work. However, we are concerned that Defra's proposals do not go further. It is poor logic on the part of Defra to suggest that a ban on performing animals in circuses is not necessary because the number of performing animals in circuses is declining. Welfare standards in those circuses which do remain must still be addressed. Defra does not appear to have considered the distinction between the use of 'wild' animals—including wild animals that have been bred in captivity—and domesticated animals in circuses. The welfare needs of wild animals are obviously very different from those of domestic animals, and more difficult for circuses—which are by their nature, itinerant—to meet. We recommend that Defra amends its proposals to license the use of performing animals in circuses by distinguishing between the use of wild animals and domesticated animals in circuses, with a view to prohibiting the use of the former. Circuses should not be permitted either to bring in new wild animals or to breed from their existing wild animals.

382. With this qualification, we support Defra's proposals to license the use of performing animals in circuses, television, films, theatre and promotional work. However, we recommend that Defra clarify whether it proposes to license the circus/organisation, the trainer or the animal. We also recommend that Defra clarify what use it envisages being made of registration requirements in these circumstances.

383. We recommend that any draft regulations proposing to implement a licensing regime for the use of performing animals should specify that all personnel who train, work with, supply or are responsible for supplying animals must be licensed. Such personnel should be required to attain a formal animal training qualification before they can be licensed.

384. We note that Defra does not state whether it intends to regulate international circuses visiting England. We recommend that Defra explain whether it intends to regulate international circuses visiting England and, if so, how.

385. We recommend that Defra re-examine its rationale for exempting "amateur theatrical productions" from any licensing or registration scheme. The proposed exemption appears to be contrary to the draft Bill's ultimate objective of improving animal welfare. In this context, Defra should explain how it intends to define which "amateur theatrical productions" it proposes to exempt.

Licensing and registration of greyhound racing tracks

386. In annex H to the RIA, Defra indicates that it is considering whether it would be appropriate to impose a licensing and registration scheme on greyhound racing tracks. Currently, Defra estimates that there are 50 greyhound racing tracks in England and Wales and that, of those, 30 are registered with the National Greyhound Racing Club (NGRC) and 20 are independent. Tracks registered with the NGRC must comply with the NGRC's code of practice and are subject to disciplinary action if they do not. The NGRC states that it licenses all track officials, kennel hands, trainers and vets associated with these tracks, and that a vet is required to be in attendance at every race meeting.[331]

387. Defra suggests that self-regulation may be preferable to statutory regulation in the case of the greyhound racing industry.[332] It explains that "over the last few years, there has been a growing impetus within the racing industry to raise welfare standards".[333] The British Greyhound Racing Board (BGRB), the representative body for greyhound racing in the UK, is drawing up proposals for further reform; in these circumstances, Defra considers that "it is premature for government to assess the extent to which government regulation would be necessary to raise standards".[334]

388. If Defra decides that regulation of greyhound tracks is appropriate, it is not clear whether it envisages that such regulation should be effected by means of secondary legislation made under clause 6(1) or a code of practice issued under clause 7. Annex H is entitled "Proposal to license/register kennels at dog race tracks", and imposition of a licensing and/or registration scheme would require secondary legislation.[335] Yet Defra does not refer to regulations in annex H and states only that "one of the options is a code of practice".[336] To make matters still more unclear, Defra seems to intend that this code of practice would impose a registration requirement on non-NGRC tracks, as annex H refers to a registration fee of £50.

Evidence received

389. We received a range of views about proposals to regulate the greyhound industry, and the timing of those proposals. The BGRB described Defra's proposed implementation date of 2010 as "very sensible" and emphasised that change is going on within the greyhound racing industry:

The speed of change at the moment within the greyhound industry, there has been a sea change of attitude and it is backed by hard practical measures. By the time we come to 2010, I think we will be looking at a very different picture. It is entirely appropriate that a law which we hope is going to last a very long time is … not a snapshot during this period of change.[337]

The BGRB considered that if "a hefty system" of track regulation was imposed now, it would impede the process of change that is going on in the industry.[338]

390. Greyhounds UK was unhappy with the 2010 date because it indicated that the welfare needs of racing greyhounds were "not going to be addressed until 2010, if at all. The implication is that there really is not a problem."[339] Greyhounds UK called for regulations that would impose independent inspection on the industry:

We have had assurances that things will get better for the last seven years that I have been connected to greyhound racing. It has always been promises: everything will get better in the future … There should be a rule book; there should be systems; there should be structures and there are not.[340]

391. The British Veterinary Association (BVA), the Society of Greyhound Veterinarians and the Dogs Legislation Advisory Group also argued that the timetable for legislation in this area was too lengthy.[341] The BVA pointed to the problem of the non-NGRC registered tracks:

We very strongly believe that legislation on greyhound racing and inspection of greyhound tracks and kennels should be introduced at the earliest opportunity. While NGRC are making strides on NGRC tracks there are many independent tracks where there is no control, no inspection, and no veterinary surgeon on site when these dogs are racing, and dogs can lie on the side of the track with a broken leg for an hour before somebody arrives, and that is not good enough.[342]

Our position

392. We are unconvinced by the argument that the greyhound racing industry should be allowed until 2010 to regulate itself and improve its own welfare standards. We accept that the British Greyhound Racing Board and the National Greyhound Racing Club are making significant efforts to improve welfare standards at NGRC-registered tracks, but their best efforts cannot alter the fact that about 40% of greyhound racing tracks are run independently of the NGRC, and therefore apparently operate free from external, independent scrutiny. If these tracks do not wish to register with the NGRC, they cannot be compelled to do so. We therefore consider external, independent regulation of these tracks is essential, and we do not consider that it would be fair to exclude NGRC-registered tracks from such regulation.

393. As discussed above, if Defra decides that regulation of greyhound tracks is appropriate, it is not clear by what means Defra envisages that such regulation should be implemented—by way of secondary legislation or a code of practice. We consider that greyhound racing tracks should be subject to a licensing regime, not a code of practice, and we therefore recommend that Defra should publish draft regulations to address this issue as soon as possible. We do not accept that regulation in this area should wait until 2010, or five years after any future Bill is enacted.

306   RIA, annex E Back

307   Ev 394 [Dogs' Trust] Back

308   Ev 503 [Greyhound Rescue Wales] Back

309   Ev 203 [National Equine Welfare Council] Back

310   Ev 413 [The Blue Cross] Back

311   Ibid. Back

312   Ev 205 [Nicolas de Brauwere] Back

313   Ev 495 [Protect Our Wild Animals] Back

314   Q 829 [Advocates for Animals] Back

315   Ev 430 [West Wales Animal Aid] Back

316   Ev 444 [Captive Animals Protection Society]; q 444 [Born Free Foundation]  Back

317   Memorandum from Animal Defenders International and the National Anti-Vivisection Society [not printed in its entirety], para 89  Back

318   Ev 439 [Associate Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare] Back

319   Qq 444 and 445 [Born Free Foundation]; see also Q 449 [Born Free Foundation] Back

320   Q 448 [Born Free Foundation] Back

321   Q 432 [Born Free Foundation] Back

322   Memorandum from Animal Defenders International and the National Anti-Vivisection Society [not printed in its entirety], para 93 Back

323   Q 505 [Association of Circus Proprietors] Back

324   Ev 216 [Association of Circus Proprietors] Back

325   Q 513 [Association of Circus Proprietors] Back

326   Ev 216 [Association of Circus Proprietors] Back

327  Ev 215 [Performing Animals Welfare Standards International]; q 529 [Performing Animals Welfare Standards International] Back

328   Q 531 [Performing Animals Welfare Standards International] Back

329   Ev 526 [Jim Clubb]; ev 405 [Animal Consultants and Trainers Organisation] Back

330   Ev 526 [Jim Clubb] Back

331 Back

332   RIA, annex L Back

333   RIA, annex H Back

334   RIA, annex H Back

335   See clauses 6(2)(h) and (i) Back

336   Ibid. Back

337   Q 549 [British Greyhound Racing Board] Back

338   Q 565 [British Greyhound Racing Board] Back

339   Q 547 [Greyhounds UK] Back

340   Q 571 [Greyhounds UK] Back

341   Ev 518 [Dogs Legislation Advisory Group]; ev 514 [Society of Greyhound Veterinarians] Back

342   Q 733 [British Veterinary Association] Back

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