Yesterday was a big day in the UK for those campaigning to end puppy farming and the mass breeding and sale of puppies and kittens. In the House of Commons, MPs debated the following Backbench Motion, brought by MP Rob Flello.
That this House has considered the e-petition relating to the sale of young puppies and kittens; notes that puppies produced at large-scale commercial breeding establishments, known as puppy farms, and irresponsibly-bred kittens are separated from their mothers too early and often transported long distances, and as a result often suffer serious life-threatening problems including impaired immune systems, poor socialisation, infectious diseases and shorter life spans; calls on the Government to review existing legislation to ensure that it is consistent with its own guidance that prospective owners should always see the puppy or kitten with its mother, and to ban the sale of puppies and kittens from retail centres such as pet shops, garden centres or puppy supermarkets; further notes the support of the Blue Cross, Dog Rescue Federation, Dogs Advisory Council, Dogs Trust, The Kennel Club, RSPCA and others for such a ban; and further calls on the Government and welfare organisations to work together to raise awareness among the public about choosing a dog responsibly from only ethical breeders or by adoption from legitimate rescue organisations, and to consider further steps to end the cruel practice of irresponsible and unethical breeding of puppies and kittens in the UK. (www.parliament.co.uk)
Now when I say a big day, it’s true that the day didn’t bring a miraculous end to the ugly industry that trapped Susie-Belle for years, it didn’t bring an end to pet shop sales, but what it did bring was a rising public awareness of the issues that must be tackled. It has, for the first time, got it into parliamentary business. There has been wide national media coverage on it. Social media for the past week has been buzzing with people tweeting, emailing and contacting their MPs to engage with this issue. The current level of engagement is unprecedented and needs building on.
But, amongst the coverage, there are the negatives, the ones who wonder why MPs are debating this when the world is in turmoil. Frustratingly, there are some choosing to focus on the low number of MPs who attended rather than the positive fact the debate occurred at all and what needs to be done to build on it. This frustrates me as someone who has been rallying everyone I can to lobby their own MPs, to publicise the debate, to get people to engage in the process and sat through most of the debate – I had to leave not having made provision for the dogs in my absence, assuming it wouldn’t be a long debate where in fact it was three hours. I feel frustrated that it is not recognised by some moaning about attendance of MPs that the debate only came about through public pressure and a lot of hard work from campaigners: the e-petition that enabled yesterday to happen initiated by vet, Marc Abraham reached 111,000 signatures. This is backbench politics arising entirely from public pressure and should be applauded and built on, not trashed because the percentage of MPs there was low. This coverage from the Telegraph today says some of what I feel today:
“Likewise, ask any of the MPs talking about puppies today how many letters and emails they’ve had from voters about cute animals, and how many they’ve had about, say, Ukraine. Guess which issue does most to fill the postbag?
So before you lambast MPs for wasting their time talking about kittens, consider how often they get accused of ignoring public opinion and failing to listen to the people who pay their wages.
Face it: a lot of people care more about lovely puppies and adorable kittens than they do about war and death and economic and all the other important stuff they’ve supposed to be interested in. MPs wittering about animals while the world goes to hell in a handcart are just reflecting that fact”.
Sitting through the debate, some of the MPs spoke well on the topic and clearly have a good grasp of the issues; others were less impressive, but overall the impression I took away was positive. On a personal note, listening to the better speakers I was forcibly struck by what this debate meant for dogs like Susie-Belle and Twinkle. While it didn’t end the misery for the dogs still trapped in the industry, it gave voice to their suffering and is recorded now in a way never before seen in the UK. Their suffering was recognised in the place, among the minds of those who have the power to one day – soon I sincerely hope – to bring it to an end. The debate is moving on and from debate will come change. Too slowly of course, but it shifted on yesterday, whatever others try to say to knock the day into one of cliched complaining about MPs and what they’re paid for, how useless they are and all the usual unhelpful and pointless ranting social media thrives on. As far as I’m concerned, yesterday changed things, we’re no longer out in the wilderness of weird dog people who no-one listens to.
Read the full transcript of the debate here