I share concerns about the treatment of birds such as pheasants and partridges that are bred and reared specifically for shooting. I agree animals should not suffer unnecessarily or be kept in inappropriate conditions.
As you may be aware, animal welfare is a matter devolved to the Scottish Parliament. In 2006, the then Scottish Government introduced the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act to promote animal welfare and prevent harm to animals.
In December 2010, the Scottish Government introduced a Code of Practice for the Welfare of Gamebirds Reared for Sporting Purposes which stated that barren raised cages for breeding pheasants and small barren cages for breeding partridges should not be used. It set out that all laying systems used for the housing of birds should be designed and managed to ensure the welfare of the birds and that any system should be appropriately enriched.
We share Scotland with a huge variety of animals. It is therefore vital that we take steps to ensure their home is safe and free from cruelty and abuse, just as much as it is for us.
I believe we should work towards bringing into effect game bird licensing which addresses the potentially adverse environmental impact of game bird hunting; provides for the revocation or amendment of licences where a licence-holder fails to comply with their terms and conditions; and which implements the recommendations of the Review of Wildlife Crime Penalties in Scotland.
I have long supported action to reduce animal cruelty on shooting estates and at the 2017 General Election I stood on a manifesto which committed, more widely, to lead the world with high animal welfare standards and to promote cruelty-free animal husbandry. It also pledged to consult on ways to ensure better enforcement of agreed standards.
I hope that the UK and Scottish Governments will listen and respond to the concerns that continue to be widely raised about the welfare of game birds reared for shooting.
I will follow this issue closely and I can assure you I will continue to press for the highest possible standards of animal welfare.