Last week the More for Scotland’s Animals coalition put on an event in the Scottish Parliament sponsored by Christine Grahame MSP to look at how we can make progress on animal welfare in Scotland over the next five years.
This follows our campaign earlier this year in which we challenged all candidates to commit to doing more for Scotland’s Animals if elected. 123 candidates made the pledge by the time the elections came round. 41 of the candidates who made the pledge were elected. That’s almost one-third of all MSPs!
We were joined by Mark Ruskell MSP (Greens), Stewart Stevenson MSP (SNP) and Douglas Ross MSP (Conservatives) as well as a number of MSPs who joined the debate from the audience.
We covered loads of issues, but here are five highlights:
- There is cross-party support for the plan to introduce a Bill to ban wild animals in circuses on ethical grounds. This will be an important step for Scotland, clearly signalling that we are willing to take a lead on animal welfare issues.
- The parties remain divided on whether snares should be banned, with the Scottish Greens clearly for a ban, the Scottish Conservatives against a ban, and the SNP against a ban but committed to a review and to listening to the evidence.
- The continued lack of resourcing for Local Authorities to enforce animal welfare policy is a major issue that we all need to speak out on and to work together to develop innovative solutions to.
- There was considerable support from the panel for a ban on electric shock collars. One MSP spoke of his personal experience with these collars, describing their ineffectiveness as a training aid and the unpleasant impact they can have.
- Wildlife crime is a major animal welfare as well as a conservation issue and more needs to be done to enforce existing laws through, for example, giving the SSPCA extra powers to investigate wildlife crime cases.
Other important issues that were raised included the need to update our pet vending laws, address puppy farming and the import of puppies from farms in Ireland, the continued shooting of seals, and the need for greater taxation and regulation of the greyhound industry to improve welfare. There was also widespread support for cat microchipping and agreement that if the benefits of mandatory microchipping can be proven then Scotland should introduce this.
With so many opportunities for progress, and many MSPs willing to champion animal welfare, it’s clear that major steps forward could be taken by Scotland over the coming years. The More for Scotland’s Animals coalition, which brings together Blue Cross, Cats Protection, League Against Cruel Sports Scotland, OneKind and PDSA, will continue to support and encourage this. Who knows - If we succeed, Scotland could soon be leading progress across the UK and Europe