Reading Time: 3 minutes A Viva! investigation revealed grim conditions on Hogwood Pig Farm (Photo: Viva!)
Reading Time: 3 minutes

This week Environment Secretary Michael Gove announced a new bill to enable tougher prison sentences for the worst cases of animal abuse, including gross neglect of farmed animals.

The Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill offers a tougher deterrent for animal abuse through a significant increase from the current maximum sentence of six months to five years.

Public pressure was the leading force behind the bill, as 70 percent of people supported the proposal of tougher prison sentences for animal abuse in a public consultation last year.

‘Serious deterrent’

“These increased maximum sentences will act as a serious deterrent against cruelty and neglect in the future. This step builds on recent positive action we have taken to protect animals, including plans to ban third party puppy and kitten sales and banning the use of wild animals in circuses,” said Animal Welfare Minister, David Rutley.

These animal protection proposals are a massive win for animal rights in the UK. Typically, animal abuse laws are stricter for companion animals than those who are farmed or wild. But, more people are making the connection between the animals they love and the animals they eat – and it’s great to see UK law incorporate this change in thinking.

‘Massive suffering’

The new bill is a huge positive step towards a more compassionate world, but it is important to remember current UK legislation currently allows for farmed animals to endure massive suffering for meat and dairy. Viva! investigated many of the UK’s biggest dairy, cow, pig and chicken farms and found that current regulations still allows for animal cruelty on a mass scale.

Farmed animals live in dirty, overcrowded conditions and often lack sufficient enrichment. They are denied nearly all their natural behaviours and experience high levels of stress. The filthy conditions and overcrowding causes sickness and disease and frequently the animals are simply left to die.

Factory farming

During our investigation of Hogwood Farm which supplies Tesco and is approved by Red Tractor, Viva! Campaigns found pigs cannibalising each other, severe overcrowding, sick and injured pigs left to die in gangways, and dead piglets dumped into bins. While this sounds like something out of a horror film, these conditions are deemed legal by the government.

The reality for other farmed animals is unfortunately no better. Dairy cows are forced into a relentless cycle of forced impregnation before having their babies ripped from them time and time again. Male calves are deemed a useless by-product so are shot in the head or killed for cheap meat. Female calves are destined to replace their mothers in the milking herd.

Although battery cages were banned in 2011, chickens are now subjected to the new ‘enriched cage’ which offers less than a postcard-size of extra space than the battery cage. In the new cages, chickens are forced to live in extreme close confinement with up to 80 other chickens, causing extreme stress and frustration.

These conditions are deeply ingrained in factory farming.

‘No place for animal cruelty’

Michael Gove, the current Environment Secretary who announced the bill said: “There is no place in this country for animal cruelty. That is why I want to make sure that those who abuse animals are met with the full force of the law. Our new Bill sends a clear message that this behaviour will not be tolerated, with the maximum five-year sentence one of the toughest punishments in Europe

“I am committed to making our country the best place in the world for the care and protection of animals.”

Times are definitely changing for farmed animals in the UK, and Gove’s new bill hopefully means that these negligent conditions will not be accepted any longer.

Help Viva! hold Gove true to his word, by joining our ongoing campaign for animals to be free from this suffering currently allowed under UK legislation. By choosing vegan, you can stop supporting the cruel meat and dairy industries and hold them accountable for the abuse they’re responsible for. The only way to truly end animal suffering is to go vegan.

You can help Viva! campaign for a more compassionate world by ordering your own door drop leaflets including our Hogwood, TRASH or ‘And you thought cages had gone’ leaflets.

Louisa Kendal at Viva!

Louisa is the digital communications officer at leading animal protection charity Viva!. She has been vegan for four years and is passionate about eradicating injustices and exploitation in our world. After graduating from the University of Bristol with a degree in Theology, she worked as a journalist in Malaysia before joining Viva!'s marketing team. She now leverages social media and the online world to forward the vegan movement and keep Viva! growing in influence.

Maria Chiorando

Maria is the editor of Plant Based News. As a former magazine editor, newspaper reporter, and features writer, her work has been published by The Guardian, The Huffington Post, and various regional newspapers, as well as Vegan Life magazine and Vegan Trade Journal. She has interviewed a huge range of people, from Prime Ministers to authors, activists, pop stars and actors, and enjoys the varied range of topics writing for PBN allows her to tackle.