Campaigners have welcomed a new government plan for animal welfare that will end the export of live animals for fattening and slaughter and explore a ban on the sale of foie gras.
This week, the government published an action plan for animal welfare that it said would revolutionise the treatment of animals in the UK and introduce measures to protect the welfare of animals abroad.
The plan will build on existing standards by recognising animals as sentient in law and committing to a range of new welfare measures, including those that protect livestock.
A new animal sentience bill was introduced to parliament this week that the government said would put animal welfare at the heart of government policy decision making.
It also committed to examine the use of cages for poultry and farrowing crates for pigs; improve animal welfare at slaughter; and incentivise farmers to improve animal health and welfare through future farming policy.
The launch of the plan follows a concerted campaign from a coalition of 50 animal welfare charities, which have called for the UK government to take a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” to redefine our relationship with animals.
"These announcements could make a real and lasting difference to animals' welfare, so we're pleased the government is committed to improving animals' lives in the UK and abroad,” said Chris Sherwood, chief executive of the RSPCA.
In the action plan, the government makes clear that the production of foie gras from ducks or geese which have been force fed raises serious welfare concerns. The practice is already illegal in the UK, however the government said it was committed to building a clear evidence base to inform decisions on banning the import or sale of foie gras and other products derived from low-welfare systems.
It will also bring in legislation to ban the import and export of detached shark fins.
Concerns still exist that UK welfare standards risk being undercut by importers under future trade agreements. The government said it would “use the most suitable tools available” to ensure its manifesto commitment not to compromise on environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards is upheld.
It also plans to consult on how food labelling can be reformed making it easier for consumers to purchase food that aligns with their values, for example, by clarifying confusing and misleading terms.