It really is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship in this important debate, Sir Roger. I am not sure that we have yet reached a point on animal welfare where we are sharing glory, but if there is glory to be shared, you should certainly have a part in that, as should many of the hon. Members who have spoken in today’s debate. I recognise that many hon. Members here have been involved in this area for a long time and will continue to be involved, and that is to be welcomed.
I thank in particular the Petitions Committee and its representative in this Chamber, Kerry McCarthy, for giving us the opportunity to discuss this important subject. I also thank the 104,000 people who signed a petition to say that it is important that the House have this debate.
I start by saying that we should be proud of this country’s animal welfare record. In preparing for the debate, I had a little look at the history books. We started legislating for animal welfare in the 1830s—a long time before we put into place many other provisions that we would now consider essential, such as for the protection of children—so it is true that we are keen on protecting animals in this country.
It has never been in dispute that, of course, animals are sentient beings. Today’s debate demonstrates once again that we are a nation of animal lovers. All colleagues will know how deeply their constituents feel about these issues. We see that all the time in the love and money that people give to animal charities. We have heard today about the work that the Barnsley Brownies have been doing, and the excellent work that Give a Dog a Bone has been doing in East Renfrewshire. I pay tribute to all those who are involved in that way.