Currently, the maximum sentence for animal cruelty is six months but the Government has announced plans to bring forward new legislation that will increase the sentence tenfold, sending a clear signal to any potential offenders that there is no place for animal cruelty in this country.
Sadly, there have been a number of recent shocking cases where courts have said they would have handed down longer sentences had they been available, including a case in April last year when a man bought a number of puppies just to brutally and systematically beat, choke and stab them to death. The new legislation will also enable courts to deal more effectively with ruthless gangs involved in despicable, organised dog fights.
In a recent statement, Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: "We are a nation of animal lovers and so we must ensure that those who commit the most shocking cruelty towards animals face suitably tough punishments. These plans will give courts the tools they have requested to deal with the most abhorrent acts. This is one part of our plan to deliver world-leading standards of animal welfare in the years ahead."
Under the Government's plans, courts will retain the ability to hand out an unlimited fine and ban an offender from owning animals in the future, but crucially they will also have the ability to sentence the worst cases appropriately. The move will bring maximum sentences for animal cruelty in England into line with other countries such as Australia, Canada, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The RSPCA and Battersea Cats and Dogs Home have welcomed the news, and both charities should be commended for their tremendous work helping to tackle animal cruelty.
I have long supported the introduction of legislation banning the sale of all domestic ivory in the UK and welcome the announcement that this Government will ban the sale of ivory in the UK to help bring an end to the horrific poaching of elephants. Around 20,000 elephants are being slaughtered every year due to the global demand for ivory, threatening elephants with extinction in some African countries. The Conservatives are leading the way on animal welfare by working to protect the world's elephants and ending the deplorable trade in ivory once and for all.
The proposals will protect elephants and help combat poaching by removing opportunities for criminals to trade illegally-poached ivory. The decline in the world's elephant population is fuelled by poaching for ivory and truly shames our generation. The need for radical and robust action to protect one of the world's most iconic and treasured species is beyond dispute. These plans will put the UK front and centre of global efforts to end the insidious trade in ivory and sets a precedents for other counties to follow in our footsteps.
As you may already know, I would like to see an end to the farming of caged hens and more free-range meats available in our supermarkets, from responsibly farmed sources. During the election one of the Conservative's manifesto pledges was to make CCTV mandatory in every slaughterhouse in England in all areas where live animals are present, with will also raise standards for farm animals and domestic pets by modernising statutory animal welfare codes to reflect enhancements in medicines, technology and the latest research and advice from vets. The codes will remain enshrined in law and the first to be updated will cover chickens bred for meat.
This Government is leading the way on animal welfare and I am delighted to share these recent announcements with you and I sincerely hope Brexit offers the UK another opportunity to enhance our already world renowned standards of animal welfare.