I congratulate my hon. Friend Luke Hall on securing this debate, and I pay tribute to his campaigning activity in this House, on this issue and on many others, and to the hard work he does in the House.
I am grateful for the opportunity to debate the issues relating to horse tethering. I know it is an issue of concern to many, not only because of the important welfare issues involved, but because of the visibility of tethered horses in our countryside and by our roads, and the many challenges that can arise if tethering is not undertaken properly and in line with established guidance and good practice.
As the Minister with responsibility for animal welfare, I am clear that we have to uphold, and continue to drive up, our already high standards of welfare in this country, including in relation to the tethering of animals, and I applaud my hon. Friend for securing this debate and highlighting the issues that can arise. As he has so clearly set out, some people are not tethering their horses appropriately, and are causing these poor animals distress and suffering. I was horrified to hear of the cases he set out of the suffering that poor tethering practice can cause our much loved horses and other equines. The practices in the examples he gave must be stamped out so that these noble animals can live without the threat of cruelty or a life of misery. I applaud the work that HorseWorld is doing to look after these horses, and I welcome the aims of its effective “Break The Chain” campaign which focuses on ending all inappropriate and long-term tethering of horses, and in particular on seeing a ban on the tethering of equines for longer than 24 hours.
As my hon. Friend clearly pointed out, it is an offence under section 9 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 Act to fail to provide for an animal’s welfare. As he mentioned, that means that a person who cares for an animal—whether it is a pet, a working animal or a farm animal—must provide for its five welfare needs, as set out in the Act. Those needs are: a suitable environment to live in; a healthy diet, including fresh, clean water; the ability to exhibit normal behaviours; appropriate company —for example, some animals need to live in social groups; and protection from pain, suffering, injury and disease. Section 4 of the Act goes even further and makes it an offence to cause a protected animal any unnecessary suffering—commonly known as animal cruelty.