Tories have broken 15 promises on animal welfare since election, says RSPCA

Charity uses party conference to highlight how ministers have U-turned on pledges ranging from ending fur imports to protecting livestock

Jane Dalton
Monday 02 October 2023 14:48 BST
The Government votes against incorporating animal welfare laws from the EU into British law

The government has backtracked on 15 promises to improve animal welfare, including some from its own election manifesto, new analysis claims.

The broken pledges include a ban on live exports, a crackdown on puppy smuggling, curbing sheep worrying and outlawing foie gras imports.

Commitments to write high animal-welfare standards into post-Brexit trade deals and to consult on ending cages for farm animals have also been dropped, according to the RSPCA.


The charity issued the list of 15 broken pledges to coincide with the start of the Conservative Party conference in Manchester this week, warning that the government’s “once-promising animal welfare agenda is in tatters” and millions of animals were paying the price.

The government says it does “not recognise” the claims and that it will outlaw live farm animal exports when parliamentary time allows.

The 2019 Conservative manifesto contained nine specific promises, including protecting livestock from dangerous dogs and clamping down on puppy smuggling and dog theft as well as a live export ban.

Boris Johnson said on the Downing Street steps that he would “promote the welfare of animals” as a cause “so close to the hearts of the British people”.

Banning imports from trophy hunting was also in the 2019 manifesto.

The party’s animal-welfare plan of 2021 repeated many of the pledges, which were then included in the Kept Animals Bill.

Dame Joanna Lumley hands in a petition to 10 Downing Street calling for a ban on the export of live animals (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)

But earlier this year the Bill was dropped as ministers reportedly caved in to a faction within the party who claimed wider anti-cruelty measures could be inserted into the legislation.

Emma Slawinski, RSPCA director of policy, said: “We are calling on decision-makers to break this cycle of delay and drop.

“They have not taken action to stop the import of fur from abroad, blocking the release of the consultation which shows overwhelming support for it, have shelved ideas to stop the sale and import of barbaric foie gras, and only last month stopped progress on a consultation to bring in clear labelling on food to show how it has been produced despite promising to do so.”

She said the RSPCA had “had enough of these U-turns”.

Plans for a consulation on food labelling have been axed (AFP via Getty Images)

The charity lists the 15 broken promises as:

1) Caged farm animals: The government had promised to consult on banning the cages in which millions of farm animals are kept in England. Conventional battery cages for hens are illegal but they were largely replaced by “enriched” cages.

2) Live exports: The Kept Animals Bill banned live exports of farm animals for fattening and slaughter.

3) Livestock worrying: The Kept Animals Bill would have given police extra powers to protect livestock.

4) Puppy smuggling: Stricter rules on importing dogs were also in the dropped Bill.

5) Fur imports: Earlier this year a promised ban was dropped.

No action has been taken on cages including farrowing crates (Getty Images)

6) Sale and import of foie gras: A ban was axed last year.

7) Trade negotiations: None of the three Free Trade Agreements so far - Australia, New Zealand, TransPacific - include assurances that imports will meet UK standards.

8) Food labelling: Plans for a consultation into mandatory welfare labelling on animal products were abandoned in July.

9) Pet theft: Another victim of the scrapped Kept Animals Bill. On advice of the Pet Theft Task Force, the government added pet abduction to the Bill.

10) Banning shock collars: Legislation on a ban has stalled.

11) Snares: Promises to launch a call for evidence were dropped.

12) Renters (Reform) Bill: Plans to end “blanket bans” on pets in rental homes have also stalled.

13) Slaughter law: No progress has happened on promises to review the law.

14) Importation of dogs with cropped ears: Again, the Kept Animals Bill would have closed this loophole and would have banned importing declawed cats.

15) Game birds: No progress has occurred on a promised consultation on updating standards.

A Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs spokesperson said: “We do not recognise these claims. As the highest ranked G7 nation when it comes to World Animal Protection’s Animal Protection Index, the UK is a world leader on animal welfare and we are fully committed to maintaining and enhancing our strong track record.

“We are proud to have some of the highest animal-welfare standards in the world and the government has a strong track record in raising the bar for these standards even further – such as by banning cages for laying hens, increasing the maximum custodial penalty for animal cruelty and introducing a bill to recognise animal sentience in UK law.

“We recognise the long-standing public concern with livestock being exported for slaughter and fattening. We are determined to deliver our manifesto commitment to end this trade as soon as parliamentary time allows.”

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