It’s fifteen years this week since the ban on hunting with dogs became law. I well remember the struggle to get the ban and the struggle since to keep it. Animal welfare remains a top item in my postbag and inbox. Some great animal welfare charities come to Parliament to campaign for changes in the law including recently those determined to end trophy hunting and end the trade in endangered species killed for sport.
I’m happy to do all I can to back higher animal welfare standards. Recently Battersea came to Parliament to lobby for tougher sentences for English and Welsh courts to tackle serious animal cruelty. The current punishments include fines, a ban, and at most, a six month prison sentence. That’s not deterrent enough and I support increasing the maximum sentence to five years.
I’m also backing IFAW’s campaign for permanent funding for the UK’s National Wildlife Crime Unit. The police led unit is well regarded for its prevention, intelligence and enforcement and is respected globally and nationally. It plays an important role in supporting local police forces and ensuring wildlife crime is taken seriously. The unit was set up in 2006 and as a Home Office Minister I had responsibility for it. But funding of the National Wildlife Crime Unit is under threat and now needs to be made permanent. National bodies like the now gone Forensic Science Service, and perhaps soon to go BBC, set the gold standard and hold others to account. When they’re gone, they’re gone – we must not let that happen to the National Wildlife Crime Unit.