Animals Matter campaign
Thank you for contacting me with respect to the Animals Matter campaign, which I basically support however rather than just a yes/no answer I thought a fuller reply would be better.
I know that there are serious concerns about the humaneness of snares. Self-lock snares are already banned and I am pleased that there are strict rules about how other snares can lawfully be used. I want the next government to tackle the illegal use of snares, and I believe that local authorities and the police must continue to clamp down on illegal activity.
The Liberal Democrats have long supported the idea of an Animal Protection Commission being set up. We would like this new expert body to look at a range of animal welfare matters, including the humaneness of various forms of pest control. I find it completely unacceptable that any form of pest control should cause unnecessary pain or suffering to helpless animals.
I understand your desire for a review of the commercial shooting industry too, and I agree that anyone involved in shooting must pay proper regard to safety and animal welfare. The industry's Code of Good Shooting Practice already provides a helpful guide on the importance of sustainable shooting and respect for habitats. I feel that anyone involved in shooting should always seek to uphold these aims.
It is important that the next government looks carefully at how well the racing greyhound industry is being regulated. The Coalition Government has begun gathering evidence on the effectiveness of the Welfare of Racing Greyhounds Regulations that were passed by the previous Labour government in 2010. We want to complete this review after the election and publish its findings later in 2015.
I agree that illegal dog fighting must be tackled too - a form of "sport" which is incredibly cruel to dogs and which can cause horrific injuries. Anyone who arranges illegal dog fights should be prosecuted and punished. The Animal Welfare Act 2006 provides a number of protections for animals, and it is crucial that these protections are respected and enforced at all times.
The Lib Dems have always been very strong supporters of animal welfare. In government, we have improved farm inspections and extended funding for the UK's National Wildlife Crime Unit until 2016. We have also increased the penalties for serious dog attacks, meaning that irresponsible owners may face tougher sentences.
The Liberal Democrats understand that our membership of the EU greatly benefits animal welfare. Thanks to the UK working with our European partners, laying hens are no longer housed in battery cages, the transport conditions for live animals has been improved, and there has been a ban on animal testing for cosmetics.
Last year, the UK hosted an international conference on the illegal wildlife trade. This brought together representatives from over 40 different countries, and agreed a number of key actions that we and other countries can take to protect some of our most iconic species from the threat of extinction.
In the next parliament, Liberal Democrats will continue to promote the welfare of domestic and farm animals, protect our precious wildlife, and ensure that our law enforcement agencies are fully supported in tackling neglect and cruelty to animals.
I hope this answers your questions