Thank you to the constituents who have sent me emails and campaign cards about the use of cages to rear birds for shooting. I agree that animals should not suffer unnecessarily or be kept in inappropriate conditions.
In addition to the Animal Welfare Act 2006, in March 2010 the then Labour Government published a Code of Practice that would have led to the removal of battery cages and the introduction of minimum cage sizes to protect the welfare of game birds.
It is disappointing that the Coalition Government chose not to introduce this code but instead brought in a less stringent code that allows the use of “enriched” cages to house game birds, with no minimum requirements on cage sizes.
In 2009, a study was commissioned on whether cage-based breeding for pheasants and partridges can fully meet birds’ welfare needs. The report was finally released in August 2015 and concluded that cage enrichment has little impact on animal welfare.
During the last Parliament, the Government committed to reviewing the statutory Code of Practice for the welfare of game birds reared for sporting purposes. Unfortunately, the current Government has stated that the case for reviewing the game bird code remains under consideration. The Government has said it is working with industry to identify and disseminate best practice and ensure effective enforcement of the existing code.
I have long supported action to reduce animal cruelty on shooting estates and at the 2017 general election our Labour Party manifesto committed to lead the world with high animal welfare standards and to promote cruelty-free animal husbandry.
My front bench colleagues recently consulted on a new Animal Welfare Plan, which includes a proposal to ban the intensive rearing of game birds for shooting. More widely, I would like to see an end to the “cage age” of outdated farming practices that cause animals distress and restrict natural behaviour.