Press release

New measures protect animal welfare and increase woodland cover

The Government has announced proposals on new measures to enhance the welfare of animals and increase woodland cover.

A picture of a number of tree trunks with bluebells forwing beneath them

A bluebell wood.

The Government has announced proposals on new measures to enhance the welfare of animals both here in the UK and abroad.

The measures include proposals to ban long journeys of live animals that are being transported for slaughter, and restrictions on the import and export of hunting trophies from endangered animals.

Alongside these measures, the Government has announced plans to create a new forest region in Northumberland to help improve our natural environment and respond to climate change.

The Government is committed to leaving the environment, and the wildlife that depend on it, in a better state for future generations. The UK already has some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world and these proposals aim to raise those standards even further.

Rt Hon Theresa Villiers MP, Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said:

High standards of animal welfare are one of the hallmarks of a civilised society. We have a long tradition of protecting animals in this country, often many years before others follow. Leaving the EU allows us to take even bigger steps forward on this. These proposals will protect our animals in our homes, in agriculture, and in the wild.

I have campaigned for an end to live exports for slaughter and the consultation is a further step in taking forward our manifesto commitment on this issue. This is an important victory for all those thousands of people across the country who have campaigned for tougher measures to protect animal welfare.

The planting of one million trees will also be fundamental in our commitment to be the first generation to leave the natural environment in a better state than we found it. They will enhance our landscape, improve our quality of life and protect the climate for future generations.

Live animal exports

The Government will consult on improving animal welfare in the transport of live animals, including banning long journeys to slaughter. Last year Defra issued a call for evidence in relation to future welfare in transport standards, followed by commissioning external research and inviting the Farm Animal Welfare Committee to conduct a review and make recommendations.

The Government proposes to accept recommendations from the Farm Animal Welfare Committee that live animal journeys should be minimised and that animals for slaughter should not be transported longer distances if suitable alternatives are available. FAWC’s report will inform a public consultation on this issue, which will be published in due course.

Pet primates

The Government will issue a call for evidence on primates as pets. Evidence will be sought on a number of areas, including:

  • The scale of ownership of primates as pets, and how they are acquired;
  • The advantages and disadvantages of restrictions or a ban on ownership, a ban on the trade, import and/or sale of primates as pets; and
  • The impact on rescue centres and animal welfare charities if restrictions are in place.

The call for evidence will be published in due course.

Microchipping cats

We will issue a call for evidence on compulsory micro-chipping for pet cats. Evidence will be sought on the benefits and impacts of subjecting cats to similar measures as are required under compulsory dog microchipping. The call for evidence will be published in due course.

Trophy hunting

We will improve protection for animals by launching consultation on banning the import and export of trophies from the hunting of endangered species. This follows the introduction of the UK’s world-leading ivory ban in December 2018, with the ban expected to be brought into force early next year. A roundtable on the issue with trophy hunting was held in May 2018, with all sides of this debate represented. The views raised during those discussions have informed the proposed consultation on further restrictions on the import and export of hunting trophies. The consultation will be published in due course.

Commenting on the announcement that we will consult on taking further restrictions on trophy hunting imports and exports, International Environment Minister Zac Goldsmith said:

The fight against trophy hunting of endangered animals matters. That is why I am delighted that the Government will consult on a ban on the import of these trophies.

By placing a higher value on animals alive rather than dead, we will begin to turn back the tide of extinction.

Northumberland forest

Trees and forests are not only an essential part of the British countryside, but also provide significant health and wellbeing benefits, and are a vital part of our response to climate change. To kick-start an ambitious new Great Northumberland Forest, the Government has announced its commitment to plant three new forests in Northumberland, with up to one million trees planted between 2020 and 2024. As part of the announcement, the Government will set up a new forestry partnership to help identify sites for afforestation and bring local stakeholders on board.

Northumberland offers opportunities for forestry, as a trail-blazer for the Government’s wider net zero and rural economy ambitions. These new plans will pave the way for further Woodland Creation Partnerships elsewhere in the country.

Published 1 October 2019