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Livestock: Animal Welfare

Volume 477: debated on Thursday 19 June 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether (a) his Department and (b) the Rural Payments Agency has power to impose further sanctions on farmers convicted for cruelty to farm animals. (211237)

[holding answer 16 June 2008]: Anyone may take a prosecution under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. On conviction, the maximum penalties available for an offence of unnecessary suffering are a fine of £20,000 or six month's imprisonment, or both. The maximum penalties for failing to provide for the welfare of an animal are a fine of £5,000 or six month's imprisonment, or both.

The court may, in addition to any other punishment on conviction, deprive a person of ownership of an animal. The court may also disqualify the person convicted from having custody of any animal for such a period as it thinks fit. This could mean a lifetime ban from keeping animals. Additionally, DEFRA may refuse authorisation to transport animals to farmers within three years of conviction for such an offence.

If Animal Health finds that animal welfare is compromised on the farm of a single farm payment claimant, they may report this as a breach to the RPA (in England), who may apply a penalty reduction in the calendar year in which the breach occurred. While civil (via cross compliance) and criminal proceedings could arise out of the same offence, penalties cannot be applied retrospectively by the RPA in response to the conviction of a claimant for animal welfare offences.