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Meg Munn MP - Sheffield Heeley's voice in Parliament | Welcome
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Sale of Puppies and Kittens

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A debate on the above subject was held in Parliament to which Meg made the following contribution.

Meg Munn (Sheffield, Heeley) (Lab/Co-op): I am pleased to have this opportunity to take part in the debate. I am grateful to the Backbench Business Committee for granting the debate and I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent South (Robert Flello) on securing it and on his excellent speech, in which he covered many of the issues. Many of my constituents have urged me to support the debate and to take part in it.

Jonathan Reynolds (Stalybridge and Hyde) (Lab/Co-op): Many of us are here because of the weight of opinion that our constituents give to this matter, but does my hon. Friend agree that it feels as though we have been here before?

I am thinking about the proposals for wild animals in circuses, on which action has still not been forthcoming, and about the badger cull, on which the will of the House has been clearly expressed. Will she urge the Government not only to listen to the debate but to take it seriously, to pay heed to the weight of opinion being expressed by our constituents and to follow this up with some action?

Meg Munn: My hon. Friend’s early intervention leads me to my next point.

Over the summer, we have rightly been concerned to hear about the terrible human tragedies that are taking place around the world—in the middle east, in Ukraine and in parts of Africa—and some people might ask why animal welfare should have such a high priority and be regarded as so important when so much else is going on in the world. My response is to remind them of William Wilberforce, one of the great humanitarians and a great MP. Coincidentally, I was born 200 years to the day after he was.

Sir Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con): Will the hon. Lady give way?

Meg Munn: I will finish my point.

William Wilberforce had his eyes fixed not only on ending slavery and the slave trade but on animal welfare. Along with a number of other people, including MPs, he was a founder of what was then the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. It subsequently became the RSPCA, which has been such a force for good in animal welfare. We should never have to choose one or the other. A civilised society respects not only human welfare and rights but the rights of animals, and we should therefore support the motion today.

Sir Edward Leigh: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Meg Munn: I want to make some progress.

The issue that brings us here today is that of the profits and money involved in the sale of puppies and kittens. Many of us get our pets from animal welfare organisations or from family, friends or colleagues. That is certainly true of my family. Our current two cats, Polly and Lucy—who will no doubt be delighted to find themselves in Hansard—came from Cats Protection. We went through a fairly rigorous process to get them. We had a visit to our home, and we then had to follow the proper processes to ensure their subsequent welfare. That is normal procedure, but it is very different when people buy animals.

Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham) (Con): The hon. Lady has shown amazing ingenuity in bringing Iraq, Ukraine and the slave trade into a debate on puppy farming. I entirely support the thrust of her argument.

Importantly, we have not yet mentioned rescue dogs and cats; the debate has been all about puppies. I was brought up in a household in which we almost always took on rescue dogs, and we need more people to look at that option rather than simply buying a nice fluffy puppy from a shop.

Meg Munn: The hon. Gentleman cannot have heard that point being raised by other hon. Members on both sides of the House, but they have indeed done so. Some of us have always been motivated to go to those organisations first.

Indeed, those organisations also have puppies and kittens. I have visited the RSPCA centre in Sheffield, which is housed in a fabulous building and looks after its animals well. It also takes seriously its responsibility for proper aftercare by ensuring that people who take on animals as pets understand what is involved, and it is available to offer advice and support.

I entirely agree that that is a good way to find a pet, but of course not everyone goes down that route, so my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent South has been right to secure this debate so that we can discuss the options when money and profit enter the situation. We must always be conscious that, when the profit motive is present, there will be unscrupulous people who work in a different way. As the legislation changes and tries to keep up with the trade, those people will find ever more clever ways of getting round it in order to make a profit.

We need to do a number of things. Raising awareness is enormously important, and this debate will put this story into people’s minds. It will appear in newspapers and on the internet, and people will learn what they might unwittingly be involved in when they buy an animal from a pet shop or even from a dealer. They will then be empowered to understand the questions they should ask, and be clearer about what they need to know before they take on the important role of looking after a pet.

The Government also need to work harder in this area; I agree with hon. Members who have said that they need to do more. My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent South has set out how that can be done quickly, and I urge the Government to take this matter forward.

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