Nothing seems to uniformly horrify the British public as much as cruelty to animals; as a nation of animal lovers, we have made continual progress in protecting animals from criminal and cruel activity over the years. Any step forward to ensure a better life for animals is one to be celebrated.
Today saw the successful Third (and final) Reading of the long-fought for Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill, to increase the maximum sentence for animal cruelty in England from six months to five years; a significant increase which IFAW and other groups have campaigned on for many years. This undoubtedly offers a far greater deterrent to those considering inflicting cruelty towards animals and we hope as a result of this much-needed legislation that fewer animals will suffer in fear, pain and discomfort.
This is an important milestone for the nation, communicating the value of animal well-being by exerting a far stronger statutory sentencing guideline for use by the justice system.
The long road to victory
The road to achieving this goal has been long and tortuous; even when, as in this case, the Bill was unopposed and had increased momentum on the back of the Finn’s Law campaign (named after courageous police dog Finn who suffered life-threatening knife injuries from an offender). This Bill had a particularly difficult passage because of factors beyond the control of groups such as IFAW and the many others who supported it. The Bill fell once as a victim of a prorogation of Parliament and again because of the heavy weight of COVID legislation in 2020; but finally, two years after it should have passed, it is set to find its way onto the Statute Book. Even now it was up to the wire with a rush to get the Bill through as it needed to just one day before the end of the current parliamentary session. It is expected to receive Royal Assent tomorrow before passing into law.
It seems like a good piece of legislation will get there in the end if you aren’t willing to give up on it and IFAW didn’t give up... and neither did our supporters. We are eternally grateful for your support and applaud your unwavering commitment to getting the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill to this point. This monumental outcome proves that together we can make change happen.
Lord John Randall credited the work of charities in their campaigning with this statement:
“I commend all of the charities involved for the weight and purpose that they brought to this campaign, to secure one of the most significant changes to animal welfare legislation since the Animal Welfare Act of 2006.”
This acknowledgement demonstrates that charities and their supporters still have a strong voice in campaigning, guiding and advising governments on important pieces of legislation. IFAW campaigned tirelessly over many years, both as an individual organisation and in coalition with other groups to influence this outcome and we are both proud and pleased to see it successfully passed after many hurdles.
Today marks another milestone in protecting animals and setting a benchmark which we at IFAW hope will help influence legislation beyond the UK. There is still of course much work to be done and IFAW will continue to work to improve the lives of animals both in the UK and overseas. Progress is built upon solid foundations and, as with the Animal Welfare Act of 2006 (which provided the foundation for this new Bill with wide-ranging animal welfare and protection measures), more significant progress has now been achieved for animals.
On implementation of this Bill, animal lovers across the nation can feel more assured that those who choose to inflict cruelty on animals will find a greater punishment awaits them. Most of all, we hope this will lead to a noticeable reduction in the incidence of animal cruelty offences. In difficult times, such positivity is to be celebrated.