Animal cruelty legislation must apply to all animals, not just pets

Tomorrow, Tuesday 21 June, sees a debate in the Northern Ireland Assembly about animal cruelty.

Green Party leader Steven Agnew MLA said,

“The Green Party has been at the forefront in campaigning for better protection for animals from cruelty and has repeatedly called for an animal cruelty register. It is welcome that this issue now appears to be mainstream.

“Unless we know who has been convicted of mistreating an animal, we cannot prevent them from acquiring another.

“From dumped and mutilated greyhounds to emaciated Rottweilers, starved farm animals and, of course, the horrific burning of Cody the border collie, Northern Ireland’s laws on animal cruelty are far from adequate.

“The Attorney General has stated that he feels sentencing available acts as a deterrent, yet the high number of cases we have seen since January of this year do not appear to reflect this.

“Starving a dog to death for example, which causes immense and prolonged suffering, and requires a deliberate and conscious decision every single day to not feed the animal, has seen a range of sentences from community service, Conditional Discharges and Suspended Sentences.

“While these decisions correctly consider mitigating factors, they completely disregard the suffering endured and ultimate death of the innocent victim. Animals feel pain and are intelligent enough to know they are suffering. They just don’t understand why. There is a grave failing within this system and it needs to be addressed.

“I believe that society can be judged on how it treats animals. Indeed, there is a link between abuse of animals and violence against people. In situations of domestic abuse, abusers may manipulate and control their human victims through threatened or actual violence against family pets.”

Steven Agnew MLA continued,

“While these horrendous cases hit the headlines, more action must be taken against other forms of animal cruelty, including hunting with hounds and dogs and the use of snares.

“All powers on animal welfare are devolved to Northern Ireland, which has the unfortunate distinction of being the only remaining region in the United Kingdom where no restrictions on fox hunting exist.

“In 2010, the Green Party attempted to introduce a ban via a Private Member’s Bill, but no other party was willing to support the proposals – one DUP MLA even went as far as describing the debate a “waste of Assembly time and resources.

It is ironic that the DUP seeks to position itself as a champion of animal welfare, but only for pets. If they are genuine in their concern in preventing animal cruelty, then it needs to be extended to include wild animals.

“Ripping apart foxes with hounds is neither sporting, nor a necessary form of pest control. It is pure, unadulterated cruelty and needs to end.”


Notes to editors:

Details of the motion can be found online at:

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