In a victory for UK animal welfare campaigners, animals are to be formally recognised as sentient beings in the country's law for the first time.
The UK government recently set out a suite of animal welfare measures including halting most live animal exports and banning the import of hunting trophies, reports the Guardian.
The reforms will be introduced through a series of bills, including an animal sentience bill, and will cover farm animals and pets in the UK, and include protections for animals abroad, through bans on ivory and shark fins, and a potential ban on foie gras.
Some of the measures – including microchipping cats and stopping people keeping primates as pets – have been several years in preparation, and others – such as the restriction of live animal exports – have been the subject of decades-long campaigns.
"We are a nation of animal lovers and were the first country in the world to pass animal welfare laws. Our action plan for animal welfare will deliver on our manifesto commitment to ban the export of live animal exports for slaughter and fattening, prohibit keeping primates as pets, and bring in new laws to tackle puppy smuggling," said George Eustice, UK's environment secretary.
"As an independent nation, we are now able to go further than ever to build on our excellent track record," he added.
The action plan for animal welfare includes measures that will involve cracking down on pet theft, which has become a growing problem in the "puppy boom" sparked by the coronavirus lockdowns with a new taskforce. Controversial e-collars that deliver an electric shock to train pets will be banned, and import rules changed to try to stop puppy smuggling.
Illegal hare coursing will also be the subject of a new crackdown, and the use of glue traps will be restricted. In response to worries from farmers over dogs loose in the countryside during the lockdowns, police will be given new powers to protect farm animals from dogs.
However, the use of cages for poultry and farrowing crates for pigs will not be subject to an outright ban, as campaigners had called for. Instead, their use will be examined, and farmers will be given incentives to improve animal health and welfare through the future farm subsidy regime.
UK government also repeated its pledge to uphold UK animal welfare in future trade deals, but will not put this commitment into law as campaigners have urged.