It was recently announced that the new Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act has been passed through parliament and will now see those convicted of animal abuse facing tougher maximum sentences of up to 5 years.

‘The new maximum penalty will enable courts to take a firmer approach to cases such as dog fighting, abuse of puppies and kittens, illegally cropping a dog’s ears and gross neglect of farm animals. As well as a prison sentence, offenders can also receive an unlimited fine.’  

This has been a big step for domestic and farm animals, paving the way for justice being served for innocent animals being abused or mistreated, and adding a hopeful layer of protection to these animals. Unfortunately, this has done nothing for wild animals, as is often the case.

Wildlife crime is rife. It is happening daily in a society where people regard different species at different levels of worth depending on their usefulness, how they taste, and how ‘cute’ they are. For most of the population, dogs are adored and treated as such, but wild foxes or rabbits are frequently killed.  

This isn’t to say that people don’t mistreat domestic animals, because they do. However, what we see consistently and without punishment is wildlife crime taking place on a regular basis because people either regard them as pests, dinner or game, failing to recognise that these are also innocent animals like cats and dogs. More needs to be done to tackle perceptions.

Around the same time as the animal sentencing act was announced, it also came into law that animals are finally to be classified as ‘sentient beings’. ‘Any new legislation will have to take into account the fact that animals can experience feelings such as pain or joy’.  

Image from The Guardian

Although most of humanity are already aware animals have feelings, this law should see the tightening of conditions animals are kept in and hopefully be an important steppingstone towards treating animals with the basic respect and care they deserve. The meat industry does still exist however, and people do still choose to hunt, so without the legislation influencing opinions or having a knock-on effect on industries or groups that abuse these sentient beings, there is still a long way to go.

Getting away with wildlife crime

We recently saw an example of someone in a potential position of power having their fruitful past of wildlife crime completely ignored.

Former hunt master Jonathon Seed, for some bizarre reason, was allowed to stand in the Police and Crime Commissioner election as a candidate despite there being a hefty amount of evidence online and in the public domain of him having ties with wildlife crime.

Former hunt-master Jonathon Seed

Not only was he a hunt master for several years, but he also faced a charge in court with breaking the Hunting Act, he openly admitted he wanted to repeal the Hunting Act, he has been filmed stating why he loves chasing and killing wildlife, and there are photographs of him online holding dead foxes. A man who so overtly has no regard for wildlife whatsoever and regards himself as heavily superior to any other living creature, was allowed to stand to be in a position of power influencing policing on issues such as wildlife crime. You really couldn’t make it up. What makes this situation worse is that it took a 30-year old drink driving conviction, something clearly suppressed, to regard him as no longer 'suitable' for such a role despite the amount of not so suppressed information and evidence piling against him online for his ties to wildlife crime. If a drink driving conviction from 30 years ago is seen as more damaging and harmful than a sickening amount of wildlife crime and an overt disregard for the law, then there is clearly something wrong. In our eyes, he has gotten away lightly, and we know without this drink driving conviction he would have been the next PCC. The drinking conviction has added a layer of distraction in the press from the rest of the mounting evidence against him, and now he is not in that position of power he will carry on his daily life as normal.

What we want to know is why he was allowed to stand in the first place, why these hunting links were ignored and why wildlife crime is so overlooked when it comes to those in power. Surely anyone considered for roles relating to law enforcement shouldn’t have a past involvement with breaking the law or wanting it overturned. Why is it that if someone openly admitted wanting an A class drug or weapon made legal they would no doubt be disqualified from standing for such a position, but wanting an illegal activity like fox hunting repealed is seen as much less damning.

Wildlife crime is consistently ignored and downplayed, animals are seen as less important than us and therefore crime against them, especially those in the wild, is seen as minor. It is time this was changed, and all crime was considered important.

Amy Schouwenburg

Head of Social Media