A Jeremy Corbyn government would give tenants the right to keep a pet, help poorer families with vet bills and ban live exports of animals for slaughter, Labour has announced.
The raft of radical measures, contained in a 50-point plan revealed on Wednesday, are aimed at proving that Labour is the real “party of animal welfare”.
Further key plans include strengthening the Hunting Act, ending the badger cull, a total ban on foie gras imports, microchipping of cats and enshrining in law the principle of animal ‘sentience’.
The Tories have in recent months put a huge effort into changing their image on the issue, with Environment Secretary Michael Gove demanding action on plastic waste after watching the “haunting” BBC documentary Blue Planet II.
But Shadow Environment Secretary Sue Hayman told HuffPost that Gove’s green credentials were “as disposable” as a plastic coffee cup.
“From bringing in the ban on fox hunting to tightening the rules on the transport of live animals, Labour has a strong track record,” she said.
“Unlike Michael Gove, we’re not swayed to develop policy after the last BBC documentary we’ve seen.
“The Tories so-called commitment to animal welfare is as disposable as the coffee cups Gove wants to replace and as plastic and see through as a bottle.”
Among the other plans in the policy document, ‘Animal Welfare For The Many, Not The Few’, are:
mandatory labelling of meat, revealing method of production and slaughter
an independent zoo inspectorate to draw up revised standards of animal welfare
requiring motorists to report accidents where an animal has been injured
compulsory CCTV in all slaughterhouses and a new Animal Welfare Commissioner
post-Brexit farm subsidies changed to move away from intensive factory farming
tackling puppy smuggling by reintroducing rabies testing before entry into the UK
a review of all animal testing with a view to improving practice, limiting animal suffering and increasing transparency
an end to the use of ‘cages’ on all British farms
extending the definition of ‘animal’ to include lobsters and squid, requiring stunning rather than boiling in restaurants
Two of the newest policies are aimed at domestic pets, including a plan to help the poorest get help with expensive vets’ bills.
While organisations such as the PDSA provide veterinary assistance to income support benefit claimants, “too often pet care is unaffordable and inaccessible to those on low incomes”, Labour says. The party would “explore how access to affordable vet care can be expanded”.
On pets for tenants, the policy states: “Recognising that currently for the majority of people under 30, buying a home is sadly less and less of an affordable option, Labour would seek to improve the rights of renters to own pets that do not cause a nuisance”
Labour would “Consult with landlords and tenants on the ability for tenants to keep pets as default unless there is evidence that the animal is causing a nuisance”.
Hayman added: “Strip away the spin and the Tories have done nothing for animal welfare.
“Theresa May openly declared her support for fox hunting and to bring back a free vote on the matter. Almost 20,000 badgers were killed across England in the largest destruction of a protected species in living memory.
“We fought for animal sentience to be part of the EU Withdrawal Bill but this was voted down by Tories despite Gove going on record to say that he would support it just months earlier.”
Labour’s plans were welcomed by a string of animal welfare charities.
Eduardo Gonçalves, Chief Executive at the League Against Cruel Sports, said: “We warmly welcome Labour’s commitment to strengthening the Hunting Act 2004, and look forward to contributing to the consultation process. It’s clear that hunts are routinely flouting the law and continuing to kill wildlife across Britain, whether that be through so-called ‘trail hunting’ or by exploiting legal loopholes.”
Emma Slawinski, Director of Campaigns, Compassion in World Farming, said it was “thrilled” by the proposals, “which would revolutionise conditions for British farm animals”.
“This could be the beginning of the end of cruel factory farming,” she said.
Ben Stafford, Head of Campaigns at WWF, said: “If we want our children and grandchildren to live in a world where elephants still roam and the oceans have more fish than plastic, we need a political race to the top on the environment.”
Michelle Thew, CEO of Cruelty Free International, said: “We are delighted to see a commitment to ending avoidable tests and experiments that cause severe suffering to animals, as well as the push for greater transparency. We believe this is the very start of a journey that will finally put a stop to needless animal experiments in the UK.”
But Tory MP Steve Double hit back. “Labour are belatedly playing catch-up with the huge progress made by this Government on animal welfare.
“However, Labour wouldn’t even be able to deliver some of these promises because they want to keep following EU rules after Brexit.”