Microchipping pet cats will become compulsory under a new set of wide-ranging animal welfare plans
George Eustice, the UK’s Environment Secretary told the BBC that the policy for cats would be monitored by vets and enforced in the same way that it is for dogs, which he said has led to over 90% compliance.
These new plans will also formally recognise the sentience of many animals.
But Mr Eustice said that this measure was aimed at pets and livestock, rather than the UK’s wild animals.
The government’s new Action Plan for Animal Welfare also includes measures that would ban exporting live animals for the purpose of slaughter, the keeping of primates as pets in the UK and the importing of hunting trophies. There could also be changes to the ways in which animals can be kept, such as the practice of keeping animals in cages.
This comes after the UK government has now committed to introducing new legislation to ban conversion therapy, which is the practice of trying to change someone’s sexuality or gender identity.
However, there is no plan yet that requires imports to meet the same welfare standards as within the UK, which the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) had described as “hypocrisy”.
The plan will also mean that remote-controlled training collars for dogs will be outlawed in the UK and the government says it will look at banning the sale of foie gras, which is a food made from the fatty livers of force-fed ducks or geese.
Mr Eustice, speaking on BBC Breakfast, said that the compulsory microchipping of cats would resemble the current rules in place for pet dogs, where vets advise that pet owners whose animals do not have a microchip to get one, and “if they ignore it, there is an enforcement process”.
British dog owners can be fined £500 under the UK’s existing laws.
Lianna Angliss at the Hopefield Animal Sanctuary said that as well as helping to reunite lost cats with their owners, compulsory microchipping can help animal sanctuaries across the country to be able to trace people who abandon their animals.
The environment secretary has also said that the recognition of animal sentience would give the UK an equivalent to a declaration that already exists within the European Union.
It will become enshrined in law that animals have the capacity to feel both hunger and pain, and have the sentience to be aware of what is happening to them. This law will apply to vertebrates, but not to other intelligent animals, such as octopus and squid.
This comes after zero COVID-19 deaths were reported in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland over the latest 24-hour period; it has been revealed. It is the first time the three nations have registered no reported COVID-19 deaths in a single day since 30 July 2020.
George Eustice said that there would be an expert animal sentience committee which would advise on the policies.
But asked whether it would affect hunting, fishing or road-building projects which could disturb habitats, he said that the recognition of animal sentience was “much more applicable” to pets and livestock than to the country’s wildlife.
The executive director of the Humane Society, Claire Bass, said that recognising the sentience of animals was a key part of “probably the biggest new set of commitments on animal welfare for decades”.
The plan includes legislation within a number of bills that is set to be approved within the coming months. These include the Kept Animals Bill, the Animals Abroad Bill and the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill. These will expand on the previous protections in the Animal Welfare Act 2006.