U.K. Animal Welfare Laws to be Updated

Plans to review, modernize and simplify outdated laws on animal welfare were unveiled Jan. 2 by the United Kingdom's Animal Welfare Minister Elliot Morley.

Animal welfare groups, local authority representatives, courts, police and industry will be consulted in what will be a far-reaching review drawing together the environmental and industrial concerns of animal welfare.

The Department of Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) wants to hear views on the existing 11 Acts of Parliament governing the welfare of pets and farm animals. The Department is considering the possibility of a new animal welfare bill, pulling together current legislation and closing loopholes.

"This is a broad and sensitive area of legislation on which we plan to consult widely and openly to make sure the law reflects the animal welfare needs of the 21st Century," said Morely. This will be a lengthy process but we need to take our time and get it right so that any resulting changes stand the test of time.

He added, "The Protection of Animals Act dates back to 1911. It has been amended over the past 90 years, but its roots go back to the 19th Century. We need to have in place legislation that not only protects animals against physical abuse, but also recognizes quality of life and physiological needs."

The consultation letter (http://www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/consult/animalwelfare/letter.htm) does not contain any Government proposals. The aim is to find out what interested parties would like to see included in a potential animal welfare bill. But a decision on whether a bill is needed or not won't be taken until views have been fully considered.

The general principles of animal welfare are set out in the Protection of Animals Acts. The first such Act was passed in 1911. Since then there have been nine amendments to the Act that covers domestic or captive animals including farm animals. The deadline for responses to the consultation is April 30, 2002.

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