FARMING is a major source of employment and an important part of community life for many in the Forest of Dean. Throughout my time as the Forest’s MP, I have regularly taken the time to listen to the concerns of farmers in our area, as well as those of our local NFU team, and assist where I can, writes Mark Harper.
It is for this reason, that I am happy to hear that the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs has recently awarded £123,672 to farmers in the Forest of Dean who applied for the first round of Animal Health and Welfare Equipment and Technology grants, part of the Farming Investment Fund. This was part of a total £19 million awarded to over 3,300 pig, poultry, sheep and cattle farmers who successfully applied to the fund.
These grants, for sums between £1,000 and £25,000, will help farmers to invest in items ranging from livestock handling equipment to reduce lameness in sheep and cattle, to automated monitoring systems which free up farmers’ time and limit environmental stress in poultry housing. They form part of the Government’s Animal Health and Welfare Pathway, which supports farmers to transition to higher welfare practices and systems, whilst improving animal health, boosting productivity and encouraging sustainable food production. In 2023, the Government is making more than £168 million in grants available to farmers to drive innovation, support food production, improve animal health and welfare and protect the environment.
More generally, these actions build on the Conservative Government’s already strong record on animal welfare, which since 2010 has included: a ban on the use of conventional battery cages for laying hens, mandatory CCTV in slaughterhouses across England, a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses, the strongest ivory ban in the world, mandatory microchipping of dogs, new regulations for minimum standards for meat chickens and the modernisation of the licensing system for dog breeding and pet sales.
I look forward to continuing to add to this record throughout the remainder of this Parliament, as measures included in the Government’s Action Plan for Animal Welfare will soon be brought forward. These will include banning the live exports of animals, seeking to prevent pet theft, and new measures to tackle livestock worrying.