Since the passing of the Cruelty to Animals Act of 1876, legislation on the subject of animal welfare has been piecemeal. Liberals recognize that the world’s creatures have rights too and that the human race should act as trustees of the natural world rather than its master. Priority should be given to the welfare of wildlife and to the elimination of cruelty to all species. We believe this can best be achieved through a new Standing Committee on Creature Protection, independent of all government departments and whose membership would represent a proper balance of all interested groups, invested with powers that would enable it to act as an enforcement agency.
Surplus capacity in the farming industry and a move from ‘intensive’ to ‘extensive’ farming provides a unique opportunity to phase out battery farming and the institutionalised cruelty and poor hygiene that goes hand in hand with such practices. Liberals wish to see the implementation of the recommendations contained in the Brambell Report which stated that any animal reared in an intensive regime should enjoy the ‘five freedoms’ – sufficient room to turn round, groom itself, get up, lie down, and stretch its limbs.
Radical legislation is needed to ensure that all UK abattoirs operate hygienic and humane slaughter of farm animals. While Liberals envisage that the slaughter of livestock for food will continue for the foreseeable future, we see no justification for slaughtering animals for pelts and believe that the import of all pelts and furs, and all homebased breeding and farming for such purposes, should be banned. Liberals also support a complete and permanent ban on the export of live animals for slaughter.
Liberals favour legislation against the taking or killing of all wildlife, with certain strictly controlled exceptions. Such legislation would include a ban on the hunting, entrapment, or shooting of any creature for sport, and would embody measures to protect existing, and provide new, wildlife habitats by using surplus farm land and cultivating hedgerows and copses.
There is also an urgent need for new regulations to afford badgers, their setts and other temporary quarters maximum protection. Existing legislation needs to be amended to make it an offence to tamper with, dig, or destroy any sett or other quarters. It should also be an offence to annoy, put in distress, injure, capture or attempt to capture, kill or attempt to kill any badger by any means whatsoever, including the use of dogs, gas or the setting of any type of trap.
Liberals find merit in the concept of a ‘ Rare Species Recovery Programme’, as described in a report commissioned by the Nature Conservancy Council, in which a programme of rare species population recovery is advocated at the modest cost of £12 million over a period of 15 years.
Animals in captivity
Liberals support developments in conservation work whereby endangered species are reared in captivity and then reintroduced to their natural environment. Liberals call for the introduction of measures to ensure that the conditions of existing livestock are improved so that their environment allows them to express as much of their natural behaviour as possible.