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Animal Welfare Act tightens international tourism standards

Passing its third reading in the House of Lords on 18th September, the Bill is likely to receive Royal Assent in weeks. 

donkey with multicolored saddle

Once introduced, the Animals (Low Welfare Activities Abroad) Act will prohibit the sale and advertising of activities considered cruel and abusive to animals in other countries. 

The legislation is a direct result of ongoing campaigns by a number of organisations and high profile public figures, and the May 2021 Defra Action Plan for Animal Welfare, which looks to introduce tighter regulations for the treatment of animals at home and overseas.

 ‘This Bill fulfils a government commitment, one which the government itself failed to fulfil. Angela Richardson therefore deserves great credit for tabling the Bill,’ said Dr Mark Jones, Head of Policy at Born Free. ‘Its successful passage through Parliament reflects the work we have done to support it alongside colleagues in a number of like-minded organisations, and we very much look forward to it receiving Royal Assent.

‘It is then imperative that Ministers act quickly to ensure key activities, such as elephant rides and cruel circus-type shows involving primates, bears, dolphins and others, become offences under the new law,’ he continued. ‘The passing of this Bill represents a shining light in what was a promising government animal welfare agenda, much of which has subsequently fallen by the wayside. The British public consistently support measures to improve animal welfare and protect wildlife. It’s high time our politicians acknowledge this fact and act accordingly.’

While many activities have already been cited as examples of those which are set to be prohibited from UK advertising and promotion, following Royal Assent Defra will begin the task of compiling a broader list. Territorial reach, online and social influencer marketing all potentially pose serious complications for implementation. Travel companies operating within the British market that use imagery of shows involving marine life and similar experiences have been the focus of debate on the issue. 

‘This is incredible news that the Animals Low Welfare Activities Abroad Bill has been granted royal assent to become law. It sends a strong message to travel companies that wild animals suffering for tourist entertainment is simply not acceptable. It is clear that we should no longer export cruelty abroad for profit,’ said Katheryn Wise, World Animal Protection, Wildlife Campaign Manager. ‘Details about which low-welfare activities the Act could apply to will now be decided. It is likely to include cruel activities such as elephant riding. We also urge the secretary of state to recognise the lifelong suffering of dolphins kept in captivity by including captive dolphin entertainment.’

More on UK environmental policy: 

Open letter to UK Chancellor on housing and water efficiencies

Regenerative agriculture is essential to avoid UK food crisis

Environmentalism will decide the next UK General Election

Image: Iva Rajović

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