Labour's welfare plan '˜out of touch with rural life'

The Countryside Alliance has raised concerns about Labour's new animal welfare plan, which for the first time includes policies to restrict game shooting and a commitment to 'strengthen' the Hunting Act.

Labour wants to 'strengthen' the Hunting Act

Labour launched the plan on Wednesday, saying it wanted to be “at the forefront of driving through the next phase of progress in the journey towards better animal welfare standards”.

Sue Hayman, the Shadow Environment Secretary, said the party wanted to end the badger cull and “enhance and strengthen the Hunting Act, closing loopholes that allow for illegal hunting of foxes and hares”.

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Ms Hayman said: “Our vision is one where no animal is made to suffer unnecessary pain and degradation and where we continue to drive up standards and practice in line with the most recent advances and understanding.”

But the Countryside Alliance chief executive, Tim Bonner, called Labour’s priorities at odds “with most people in rural areas”.

He said: “It is sad that Labour’s focus on wildlife and the countryside remains firmly motivated by politics, rather than farming, rural communities and animal welfare.

“There are a number of sensible animal welfare policies in Labour’s plan but these have been conflated with an animal rights agenda.”

Labour puts forward 50 policies for wild, farmed, and domestic animals, including the appointment of an Animal Welfare Commissioner and a ban on live animal exports for slaughter or fattening, with an exemption for breeding animals.

It also wants a total ban on imports of foie gras, which it terms “cruel and inhumane”.

But its plan does not mention bovine TB, poaching, sky lanterns or the epidemic of sheep worrying by domestic dogs.

Mr Bonner said: “Some Labour MPs have identified that Labour has a ‘rural problem’, but the party seems determined to continue to ignore issues which are actually important for animal welfare and rural people.”