Neil is passionate about animal welfare. Soon after being elected in May 2010, Neil was appointed Chairman of the All-Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Animal Welfare in July 2010.
In that time, the group investigated a large number of animal welfare issues, from live animal exports to humane slaughter and the Equine Crisis to Dog Welfare. Under Neil’s Chairmanship, the APPG produced a number of important reports, on subjects such as Dog Breeding (2012), Equine Identification (2014) and the Dog Strategy (2015) to raise animal welfare issues to the Government’s attention.
Neil is against cruel practices against animals and presented a petition to the Animal Welfare Minister in 2014 for far stronger controls on live animal exports. He has also worked to prevent dolphins being caught up in fishing nets on the South West coast.
Increased Sentences for Animal Cruelty
Neil campaigned strongly for an increase to the maximum sentence for those convicted of animal cruelty from 6 months to 5 years. He harried the Government time and time again on this issue, leading Parliamentary debates and speaking at official events calling for an increase in sentence limits. Under his Chairmanship, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee called for an increase to five year sentences in their animal welfare report.
In September 2017, the Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, heeded Neil's call and announced the Government would be raising the maximum sentence from 6 months to 5 years. Neil is delighted Ministers have seen sense on this vital animal welfare issue.
Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee
Upon his re-election in 2015, Neil was elected Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee. This means he is responsible for scrutinising the Government on animal welfare issues.
In February 2016, the Committee published its report on Greyhound Welfare, under Neil's chairmanship. The report called for a new requirement for bookmakers - who profit from greyhound racing - to make a financial contribution to greyhound welfare. It also recommended wider and stronger welfare regulations to better protect greyhounds in their kennels, as well as on the racetracks.
In November 2016, the Committee also a wider-ranging report on the welfare of domestic pets. Recommendations included:
- Licensing for anyone breeding two litters or more per year.
- A ban on third party sale of dogs
- Stricter rules on internet sales
- A duty of councils to uphold animal welfare laws
- A sharp increase in the maximum penalty for animal cruelty from 6 months to five years.
Dog of the Year
Back in October 2011, Neil’s labrador, Wilberforce, won the Westminster Dog of the Year competition.
One of the judges, Clarissa Baldwin (CEO of Dogs Trust), said “Our Westminster Dog of the Year competition is all about celebrating the unique bond between person and dog, and Wilberforce is this year’s victor because the judges could clearly see the mutual love and respect between him and Neil.”
The competition is a good, non-serious, reminder of animal welfare issues and the importance of preventing cruelty to any animal.