With the nation having had their say in the UK’s General Election, and a hung Parliament in prospect, we are now gearing up to engage with MPs old and new from all parties on the big farm animal welfare matters of our day.
As soon as we know who will be the new Minister responsible for agriculture and animal welfare, I will be writing to them highlighting key issues and asking for a meeting. The key points that I will be raising immediately include:
• The UK ban on the debeaking of laying hens is due to come into force on 1 January 2011. The previous Government planned to remove the ban by postponing it indefinitely. We will press the new Minister to ensure that if the ban is postponed, a new specific commencement date be set. We will make it clear that an indefinite postponement is completely unacceptable, condemning many millions of hens to avoidable suffering.
• Encouragingly, about 90 local authorities no longer use eggs from caged hens or are committed to ending their use in the near future. This is thanks to your support for our Cage-free Councils campaign. We will call on the new Government to set high standards of animal welfare for the procurement of food and meals by the whole of the public sector. This should extend to meat, milk and eggs.
• Pressures are building for the increasing industrialisation of UK dairy farming. A growing number of cows are being kept indoors for all or most of the year and many are pushed to extremely high milk yields. We will call on the new Minister to take action against the construction of so-called ‘mega-dairies’ like the one proposed for Lincolnshire.
We will keep you up-to-date on how you can best raise farm animal welfare issues with your MP. We aim to give further advice on the political action you can take, and will have this ready for you on our website by 18th May, when MPs return to Westminster.
And many thanks to everyone who took part in our Vote Cruelty-Free initiative. I am delighted to say that at least 42 elected MPs have pledged support for the manifesto put forward by a coalition of animal societies including ourselves. These MPs represent cross-party support for animal welfare reforms.