A recent Opposition Day motion sought to revive the ‘Kept Animals’ bill that was promised in the government’s last manifesto to introduce tough new measures to prosecute those who abuse and exploit animals.
Brought forward by Labour and Co-op’s Jim McMahon MP, this bill would have clamped down on puppy farming, dog theft, and live animal exports.
Southend’s MPs, Sir James Duddridge and Anna Firth, both voted against this bill. Sir James stood on the Conservative manifesto that promised this legislation and Anna Firth is the patron of the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation. However, both voted against the legislation and in an accompanying speech to her vote, Anna Firth claimed that enough had been done already and her voting against the bill ‘has the support of all constituents in Southend and Leigh-on-Sea’.
Cllr Lydia Hyde, Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Member for Climate Change, Environment, and Waste said “Anna Firth does not speak for Southend and Leigh when she says this bill is not necessary. I have dealt with many reports of animal cruelty and suspected illegal puppy farming as a local councillor and residents are heartbroken to hear the law can’t prevent or resolve the situations, they’ve reported to me. Many animal-loving residents will be deeply angry that their MP has misrepresented them in this way.”
Cllr Hyde last year spearheaded a petition to save the animals at Sealife Adventure who were under threat of being euthanised owing to rising energy costs as claimed by the owner who was recently invited to Downing Street by Anna Firth MP.
Animal charities were also furious in their response to the outcome of this vote with
Humane Society International/UK saying the government had “dithered” over the bill for the last two years whilst “animals are suffering unnecessarily.”
The Dogs Trust accused Westminster of playing political games as dogs suffer horrific journeys to Great Britain to be sold to unsuspecting buyers.
Labour’s Cllr Maxine Sadza, Shadow Cabinet Member for Community Inclusion, Diversity, and Regulatory Services, said “Staff at the council do a great job alongside partners, police, and statutory bodies to tackle animal cruelty in Southend but current laws lack the powers to deal with or properly investigate puppy farms and the like. This is a bill, started under the Conservatives, that would have got cross party support. Our MPs should be ashamed of themselves and explain to Southend why they voted against improving the lives of animals in their constituencies.”
Cllr Matt Dent, Labour Shadow Portfolio Holder for Public Protection said “This bill was a good bill, but this chaotic Tory government voted it down. Labour have shown that they support good ideas no matter where they come from, the Tories have shown that they are allergic to good ideas, even if they are their own!”