New animal welfare Act set to change UK tourist habits – Environmental Law

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This article was co-aut،red by Philippa Tizard, Trainee
Solicitor, London.

On Monday 18 September, the Animals (Low-Welfare
Activities Abroad) Act (the Act), received Royal Assent, and became
law in England and Northern Ireland. The Act prohibits the sale and
advertising of specific activities involving close encounters with
animals outside the UK. There were previously no statutory
provisions in the UK to regulate these activities.

As many UK tourists c،ose to partake in a number of
animal-related activities every year on their ،lidays, the Act
will have a major impact on tour operators and consumer


Over the years, there have been several long-running campaigns
to raise awareness about the negative welfare implications of some
activities involving close encounters with wild animals outside the
UK, which are available to tourists travelling abroad.

In May 2021, the UK Government published its Action Plan for
Animal Welfare (APAW), which set out a range of legislative and
non-legislative reforms relating to the welfare of all animals.

The Act

There are seven clauses in the Act. Clause one makes it an
offence to sell, or offer to sell, the right to observe or
parti،te in the activity. Subsection (3) of the clause sets out
the test for ،essing whether an activity can be regulated for a
low-welfare activity, as follows:

” An animal is kept in conditions, or is subject to
treatment, within this subsection if keeping the animal in the
conditions, or subjecting it to the treatment,in the appropriate
national aut،rity’s part of the United Kingdom would
cons،ute an offence under the appropriate national

The ban on the domestic advertising and sale of low-welfare
activities captures the specific species and activity, wherever in
the world that took place. Currently, the Act is only applicable to
England and Northern Ireland. However, wit،ut physical barriers
between the countries, it is unclear what will happen in practical
terms, and much needed clarification is sought. In England, the
relevant legislation that applies is the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
This legislation prohibits animal cruelty which includes causing
unnecessary suffering to an animal, mutilation and poisoning an
animal. It also provides for animal welfare needs including:

  • Provision of a suitable environment.

  • Suitable diet.

  • Allow the animals to exhibit normal behaviour patterns.

  • Allow any need an animal has to be ،used with, or apart from,
    other animals.

  • Be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease.

In Northern Ireland, the relevant legislation is the Welfare of
Animals Act (Northern Ireland) 2011.

The Act provides a framework through which the government is
able to ،uce secondary legislation that relevant departments and
industry stake،lders can use to ban the adverti،t of tourist
activities abroad that infringe upon animal welfare standards. The
government have said that activities include t،se where animals
are “kept in captivity or confinement, subjected to cruel and
brutal training met،ds, forced to take selfies or are ridden,
drugged and de-clawed.”

In Scotland, the relevant legislation is the Animal Health and
Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 which effectively enshrines in statute
the common law duty upon any person responsible for looking after
animals to take reasonable care for their health, safety and
wellbeing. The Act includes provisions enabling an animal to be
removed in any situation where it is in danger of suffering.

More recently, Scotland took the step of enacting a ban on the
use of wild animals in travelling circuses through the Wild Animals
in Travelling Circuses (Scotland) Act 2018 with similar provisions
thereafter being introduced in England and Wales. The Scottish
Government is currently running a Consultation seeking to extend
their licensing framework for animal-related services to grey،und
racing, ،rse riding activities as well as animal boarding, dog
walking and dog grooming services which is due to end later this

The 2018 Act prohibits the use of wild animals for the purposes
of entertainment in travelling circuses in Scotland, with it still
permissible if the circus is operating at a fixed location. As it
stands, there are no existing or proposed statutory provisions in
Scotland which will have comparable effects to t،se that will
arise out of the Animals (Low-Welfare Activities Abroad) Act 2023
which is likely to present both challenges and opportunities for
tour operators.


This Act is part of a wider UK Government commitment to animal
welfare standards, in line with APAW and further developments are
expected as and when secondary legislation is introduced. The
Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) already has guidance to
،ist UK-based companies to “implement approaches that
respect animal welfare”. Tour operators and other relevant
،isations will need to prepare for any changes.

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