Examination of Witnesses

Part of Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:11 am on 23rd July 2019.

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Mike Schwarz:

I can see I have struck a lawyer here. There is a difference, actually, and it is one of substance. There is a principle behind treating adults differently from juveniles, and a principle behind treating careless driving differently from dangerous driving. As we all know, the law has to draw a line because there is a reason for doing so. The distinction between the sectors of domesticated and wildlife animals, and treating them differently in terms of sentence, does not appear to have a principle, unless Parliament is saying that the animal suffers less in the wild as the result of unnecessary cruelty, or that it is more important to punish suffering in the domesticated area. For what it is worth, I think the suffering is the same, and it is for Parliament to decide whether the two should be distinguished from each other. That is where the distinction lies.

It begs the question of what the animal welfare legislation is generally about. It seems to be about protecting animals, punishing bad behaviour by humans and stopping it being propagated elsewhere. In the sentencing guidelines and the offences, however, there is no demarcation between sectors to say that one sector is more worthy of protection than the other is, which is why I go back to the point on the level playing field across the two areas.