Historic break­throughs in legal protection of animals in the Nether­lands and United Kingdom

20 May 2021

Thanks to three proposals from the Dutch Party for the Animals, animals in livestock farming are protected better than ever by law. The legislative changes passed by the House of Representatives last week will ensure that the natural behaviour of animals becomes paramount. Animals should no longer be adapted to the system (for example, by cutting tails), and are finally protected from barn fires. In addition, the breeding of animals can henceforth be restricted if necessary. "These are important steps towards an end to the livestock industry," says party leader Esther Ouwehand. The UK also announced ground-breaking animal welfare decisions last week, including a ban on live animal exports and the legal recognition of animals as "sentient beings". These measures will also help to prevent the risk of new pandemics.

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Party leader Esther Ouwehand of the Dutch Party for the Animals after the vote on the three proposals on the Animals Act.

"This is a really huge breakthrough for those hundreds of millions of animals in the livestock industry", cheers group chairman Esther Ouwehand. "The natural behaviour of an animal is paramount. This means that animals are given daylight and enough room to manoeuvre. It also means that piglet tails are no longer cut off, that sufficient bathing water must be available for ducks and that rabbits should no longer be locked in wire mesh cages."

In addition, animals must finally be legally protected against barn fires. The Party for the Animals has been advocating measures against barn fires since its arrival in the House of Representatives in 2006, but the government is hardly taking action. As a result, fire safety has deteriorated rather than improved in recent years. Ouwehand: "The government did not think it necessary to draw up legal rules for the fire safety of stables. Fortunately, a House majority does. Animals deserve better protection than toilet rolls, and that is what they will get now."

Thanks to the third amendment to the law that was adopted, a breeding restriction can now be put in place to prevent animal suffering. For example, if the slaughter rate has to be reduced because of a pandemic such as corona, or during a heat wave that makes transport to the slaughterhouse unbearable. "Dutch livestock farming is currently designed in a way that animals are bred continuously. Even during a heat wave, for example, animals must be brought to the slaughterhouse as continuous breeding would otherwise cause overcrowding. In situations like this, you must stop breeding. Thanks to our proposal, this is now possible", Ouwehand concludes.

UK: ban on live exports and recognition of animals as "sentient beings"
Last week, the UK government also announced a series of animal welfare measures that were enthusiastically received by animal welfare organisations and the Animal Welfare Party. In addition to an Animal Sentience Bill, which formally recognises animals as "sentient creatures" for the first time in English history, they include a ban on much of the live export of animals, a ban on the import of hunting trophies such as ivory and a ban on keeping primates as pets. The government also presented plans to tackle the illegal trade in puppies.

"We are delighted with these government plans," said Vanessa Hudson, leader of the UK Animal Welfare Party, which experienced huge growth at the local elections in London and Scotland last week. "We have campaigned on these topics for a long time and there is a lot to celebrate! There is still much to be done of course: there is, for example, no blanket ban on the sale of fois gras and fur, nor on the online trade of pets. We will continue to work hard for this."

The ban on the transport of live animals for export also follows the recent urgent call by leaders of 18 political parties for animal rights to the European Commission to ban the export of animals to non-EU countries. The transport of animals often takes days or weeks, during which the animals suffer terribly. New Zealand has also announced it will stop transporting live animals by sea.