THE GOVERNMENT has launched a draft Animal Welfare Bill which it says is the most comprehensive modernisation of laws on domestic and captive animals in 100 years.

The bill aims to consolidate and modernise over 20 pieces of animal welfare legislation relating to farmed and non-farmed animals.

The updated bill introduces some of the duties bestowed on keepers of farmed animals to the owners of pet animals. It incorporates a modern day appreciation of what constitutes an offence of cruelty to animals. 

In terms of what the bill means for livestock farmers, there is some change to the powers available to police and local authorities for enforcing animal welfare legislation.

Trading Standards and the State Veterinary Service will have greater powers of entry to visit and treat animals in an emergency.

The police will have powers to enter a property and take immediate action, if necessary.

Local authorities will have greater power to take action against those who have been disqualified from keeping animals but ignored the disqualification and continued.

In future, the local authority will have the power to remove the animals from such premises.

The law has also been tightened to control those who get round disqualification by employing a manager with responsibility for livestock welfare.

For DEFRA the new bill makes implementing new legislation coming from Brussels easier as all laws related to the general welfare, slaughter and transport of farmed animals will now come under one single Act.

“The draft bill extends a duty to promote animal welfare – currently present in farmed animal legislation – to all animal keepers,” said Ben Bradshaw, junior DEFRA minister.

“This is a major improvement to current welfare laws which are often based on the view that good welfare is about taking action after the animal has suffered,” he said.