From the Telegraph today: Animal welfare Bill 'threatens anglers and gamekeepers' By George Jones, Political Editor (Filed: 09/12/2004) Anglers and commercial fishermen could risk prosecution for cruelty under Government plans to improve animal welfare protection, a Commons committee warned yesterday. It also called for more consultation with animal welfare groups on whether greater protection should be given to the 20 million pheasants and partridges reared each year for shoots. About 40 per cent of pheasants reared for hunting get shot About 40 per cent get shot, but the Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee challenged the Government's view that there was "little concern generally" about the welfare of game birds. The draft Animal Welfare Bill was published in July this year and will be introduced in the current session of Parliament. It updates more than 20 pieces of animal welfare legislation in England and Wales and imposes on those who own or are responsible for animals a duty of care to ensure the creatures' welfare. The cross-party committee said the draft raised many important and complex issues which must be resolved before a final Bill was introduced to Parliament. They recommended 101 changes to the legislation. The MPs said they considered that as the Bill was drafted there was a strong argument that a person catching a fish, either commercially or for recreation, could be liable to prosecution for cruelty, because of mutilation from hooks or nets. "We doubt the Government's position that the draft Bill would be unlikely to have any impact on traditional fishing or angling practices," the report said. The committee said it accepted that neither commercial fishing nor recreational angling should be covered by the Bill. Fishing should be exempted as an activity, rather than fish as a species. But the Government should ensure that those who caught fish were not given a free reign to inflict unnecessary suffering. The Bill defines "animal" to mean all vertebrates and the report raised the possibility that boiling crabs or lobsters could be outlawed unless they were stunned before cooking. It called on the Government to reassess whether there were reasonable grounds to believe, on the basis of scientific evidence, that octupus, crabs, lobsters and crayfish had the capacity to experience pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm. "While this assessment is being undertaken, a code of practice should be issued giving details of humane ways in which crabs and lobsters should be stunned prior to cooking," it said. The Government has given repeated assurances that the ban on hunting with dogs will not be extended to other sports such as shooting. But the report shows the committee was concerned by criticism from animal welfare groups of current game bird rearing practices including beak trimming and burning, and the fitting of bits, masks and spectacles. "We consider that gamekeepers should be required to try other methods first before resorting to these practices, as currently appears to be the requirement in relation to tail docking piglets," the report said. The MPs voiced concern that the Government intended the cruelty offence to apply only to deliberate infliction of unnecessary suffering, excluding unnecessary suffering which arises as a result of neglect. This would appear to downgrade existing legal protections, and could significantly weaken the current law on the abandonment of animals. The committee also suggested that docking dogs' tails for cosmetic reasons should be banned, but permitted for therapeutic reasons. All animal sanctuaries should be required to be licensed, regardless of their size. They also advised that regulations for performing animals should distinguish between the use of wild animals and domesticated animals in circuses, with a view to prohibiting the use of the former. Greyhound racing tracks should be subject to a licensing regime as soon as possible. The most serious animal welfare offences should result in an automatic disqualification order. The MPs also said the environment department should undertake consultation and research on electronic shock collars and perimeter fence devices. Sorry to raise this issue again but given the government's pledges during the Hunting debate I believe this comes under the definition of hypocracy. Shooting and fishing to be legislated out of existance and the countryside left without its traditional managers. What really concerns me is the level of influence that the animal rights lobby, a body of opinion with only limited national support, appears to have over the democratically elected government.