A suggested letter to your Member of Parliament regarding the Amendments to the Animal Welfare Act. Please edit and use as you see fit.
I write to you as my Member of Parliament to express the anger I feel at the manner in which DEFRA has proceeded with the proposed amendments to the Animal Welfare Act that currently stand in statutory instrument before Parliament.
I am informed by those who have taken legal advice on this matter that whilst it is clear that DEFRA has consulted according to their statutory remit, they have not done so effectively, fairly, nor in the spirit of openness.
After the public consultation in 2015, that was far from clear in its intended scope, DEFRA failed to constitute the expert panel with appropriate expertise from the bird of prey fraternity. I point out that a single representative from the ‘pet industry’ does not suffice – birds of prey are not pets and whilst it may be convenient to categorise them as such for legislative purposes, it has no veracity and the representative had no expertise.
The amendments to the Animal Welfare Act as they relate to birds of prey will be much less effective having bypassed those very practitioners who could have contributed the most.
Some of us have now had sight of the revised guidance notes that will accompany the legislation. Even here there has been no effective sharing with stakeholders, instead they have been drip-fed to selected members of the fraternity with instruction not to share. We are told that we have until Friday 16th March to make comment.
I observe that relating to the licensing requirement that will capture professionals and many hobbyists, the criteria being proposed are vague and contradictory, so much so that each local authority and its inspectors will have to interpret rather than be guided clearly. This is plainly open to subjectivity and ideological interference.
The Small Business Impact Assessment that accompanies the proposals is fantasy. DEFRA undertook this as a desk-top exercise well in advance of the final drafts being undertaken and without any consultation with industry or hobbyist sectors. Keeping birds of prey requires specialist attention – local authorities do not have this and training inspectors will be time consuming and expensive. Far from having little impact, what is now before Parliament is likely to put a number of small scale commercial breeders and other bird of prey enterprises out of business and if as I suspect, hobbyists are captured by the legislation despite ostensively being ‘out of scope’, the imposition is intolerable. We request that the Better Regulation Executive be asked to review the process which is far from best practice.
There are many other issues that will arise from these poorly written and ill considered amendments and the associated guidance.
Falconers, breeders, educationists, display givers, bird abatement and pest controllers have always conducted their relationships with DEFRA as honest and constructive stakeholders. To be bypassed in consultation so systematically has caused anger and frustration. I believe that for civil servants to ignore appropriate and freely available expertise is negligent.
We are advocates of high welfare standards and will continue working with the Sustainable Users Network, the Countryside Alliance and others, to have our voice heard.
I ask you to represent me by seeking that the Minister addresses my concerns and requesting that DEFRA reconsider its engagement to ensure that the amendments before Parliament will actually promote an improvement in welfare for our birds of prey. I believe that Parliament’s Regulatory Committee should become involved to scrutinise DEFRA’s practice and processes.The current ignorant and ill-judged proposals will penalise amateur and professional keepers alike and do little to address the stated objective of welfare.