Animal welfare is a huge issue for so many of my constituents. It’s also something I care passionately about.
We all know that the Tories’ record on animal welfare is pretty appalling.
Since my election hundreds of people have contacted me with their concerns about fox hunting, badger culling, wild animals in circuses, illegal puppy breeding, seal slaughtering and bees.
For those who have been in touch I have tried to make my position absolutely clear - I have been a vegetarian for 17 years and animal welfare is something I will always stand up for. In fact, my first ever political act at ten years old was writing to Tony Blair about fox hunting.
I am committed to defending the hunting ban and will vote against any plans to repeal the Hunting Act. In my opinion the chasing and killing of wild animals with dogs is cruel and has nothing to do with wildlife management. The Government should prioritise the wider issues affecting rural communities such as low wages, the shortage of affordable housing, improving infrastructure and protecting public services.
The Coalition Government wasted millions of pounds on a badger cull which was unscientific, inhumane and ineffective. Despite this, the Conservative Party's manifesto included a commitment to implement a 25-year strategy to eradicate bovine TB that includes culling. I oppose culling because quite simply, it is bad for farmers, bad for taxpayers and bad for wildlife.
In Parliament I have been asking a series of questions to press the Government on its commitment to bring forward a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses. The Coalition Government published a draft Wild Animals in Circuses Bill in 2013 but failed to find parliamentary time for it, and it’s quite clear the current Tory government has no intentions of bringing forward legislation in this really important area.
It’s been great to have the opportunity to show my support for all these causes and many more down in Westminster. I recently attended an event held by the International Fund for Animal Welfare - an organisation which saves individual animals, animal populations and habitats all over the world. And just last week I met organisations concerned about protecting bees and to hear about the threat to them from pesticides.
Over the coming weeks and months I and my Labour colleagues are going to be working hard to keep animal welfare firmly on the agenda.