Defra has confirmed that the proposed Animal Welfare Bill will not make it illegal for shops to sell fish that have been injected or tattooed with dyes.
Many trade experts had assumed that the proposed Animal Welfare Bill, which is currently being produced by the Government, would make it possible to prosecute shops that sell aquarium fish that had been mutilated in this manner.
However, Practical Fishkeeping has now received confirmation from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs that the proposed Animal Welfare Bill will actually do little to curb the trade in dyed fish. "There are no plans at present to introduce a ban on the sale of dyed fish..."Speaking on behalf of Ben Bradshaw MP, Alexandra Davies of Defra told Practical Fishkeeping: "There are no plans at present to introduce a ban on the sale of dyed fish in this country under the Animal Welfare Bill.
"The Bill allows the Government, however, to introduce new regulations to cover animal related activities and the Government proposes to introduce new regulations which cover pet vending.
"This would be the appropriate place to consider whether any restrictions are necessary to cover the sale of dyed fish."
Defra and the RSPCA did confirm that the process of dyeing fish using these techniques could possibly constitute mutilation under the Bill, and a prosecution could be undertaken as a result if the fish were being mistreated in this country. "A loophole in the proposed system means it would still be legal for a shop to import or sell fish dyed outside the UK..." However, a loophole in the proposed Bill means that it would still be legal for a shop to import or sell these fish if they were dyed outside the UK, as all dyed fish are.
Says Defra: "The Government is not aware that the practice of dyeing fish occurs in this country. If this practice were to be carried out in England and Wales, then it is possible that it may amount to an act of animal cruelty, and a prosecution could be taken under the existing legislation: the Protection of Animals Act 1911."
"The Animal Welfare Bill, which is currently being considered by Parliament, makes it an offence to mutilate an animal. The Bill will allow, by regulation, certain mutilations to be exempted from the prohibition where there are sound welfare or good management reasons to do so.
"The dyeing of fish by injection or tattoo would be regarded as a mutilation and it is unlikely that this would be exempted from the overall prohibition."
Dr Peter Burgess, fish health consultant and PFK contributor told us: "I am very disappointed by Defra's decision to allow the continuation of importing/selling injected/tatooed fish. It suggests to me how little the government understands or cares about fish welfare. We must change this view."
Practical Fishkeeping has been running a successful campaign against the sale of dyed fish since 1996 and 75% of the UK's aquatic retailers have signed a pledge saying that they will not stock fish that have been mutilated in this way.
The Ornamental Aquatic Trade Association told Practical Fishkeeping that it does not support the trade in dyed fishes.
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