Longer wildlife crime sentences get mixed reception

The government will push to increase the maximum prison sentence for animal cruelty from six months to five years – something that has been simultaneously welcomed and questioned by field sports organisations.

In a draft bill introduced by the environment secretary, Michael Gove, the government said it would increase sentences to “enhance animal welfare standards” as the Brexit process divorces the UK from EU wildlife directives. It also mandated that policy-makers “must have regard to the welfare needs of animals as sentient beings,” responding to the press furore when MPs voted against an amendment that officially assigned sentience to animals.

The Countryside Alliance voiced its approval of the move to increase sentences but questioned why it was being made this early in the Brexit process, when environmental, fisheries and agricultural bills were yet to emerge.

“Whilst the Bill has been published with good intentions, our concern is that there are those who will see this as an opportunity to limit and curtail the activities of farmers and other land managers,” said chief executive Tim Bonner. “The government must resist any attempts to turn this from a Bill to protect animal welfare into a Bill which can be used to promote an animal rights agenda.”

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