Ideology over animal welfare?

Today the Northern Ireland Assembly was due to debate a motion calling on the NI Agriculture Minister, Sinn Féin’s Michelle Gildernew, “as a matter of urgency to ensure that animal welfare standards are at least equivalent to those in the rest of the United Kingdom.” – there’s also an amendment selected to add at the end “and the Republic of Ireland”. In England and Wales the relevant legislation was apparently brought up-to-date in 2007, but, according to the USPCA, “changes in the Animal Welfare Law in the Republic are, at least, one year away and probably more.” The USPCA’s Stephen Philpott was on Stormont Live claiming that, rather than adopting the existing animal welfare legislation in England and Wales, the NI Agriculture Minister is dithering. According to the USPCA press release – the Minister “wants complementary legislation to come into effect North and South and has instructed her departmental officials to work to this end.” The gist of his argument appears to be that the Minister is putting ideology ahead of animal welfare. Update The Agriculture Minister has claimed, “A detailed review of animal welfare legislation is drawing to a close.” But the statement also adds – “The Minister also said that she was anxious to see the outcome of legislative proposals on animal welfare currently being discussed in the South.”

From the USPCA press release

The USPCA has asked the Minister, Michelle Gildernew, about the long delay and were assured she supports changes; however, she wants complementary legislation to come into effect North and South and has instructed her departmental officials to work to this end. The ISPCA, our Southern counterparts, are, like us, wallowing in antiquated legislation. It seems any changes in the Animal Welfare Law in the Republic are, at least, one year away and probably more.

Adherence to ‘The Five Freedoms’ is a key objective of all animal welfare organisations throughout the world. Our new law is all but written for you; surely ensuring decent basic standards of animal welfare is not a contentious issue and must attract cross party support. Please stop sitting on your hands, let the Stormont Assembly set animal welfare standards for others to follow and give our abused and abandoned animals the chance they deserve.