By Kevan Jones MP, Shadow Minister for Armed Forces
This week I received a response from the Ministry of Defence to a Parliamentary Question I tabled asking about the treatment of the department’s animals. Horses and dogs provide an invaluable service to support our armed forces. That is why I was so disappointed to receive the response that 28 horses had been euthanized by the MoD in 2011.
Alternatives to euthanasia for these loyal and brave animals must always be considered fully and properly. When I was a Minister in the previous Government we always made sure that our horses were euthanized as an absolute last resort, which explains why only 12 horses were euthanized in 2009, for example.
The Ministry of Defence itself pledges to protect military working animals from ‘pain’, ‘fear’ and ‘distress’. In the light of this news, one must ask whether the Department really is sticking to its own commitments on animal welfare.
Equine Welfare Director at Bristol-based HorseWorld, a charity dedicated to caring for horses, Jerry Watkins said, ‘we have no reason to believe the MoD is not following correct principles and practices, but the public will want to be assured that in each case every alternative was considered […] and will be in future’.
The public will certainly want reassurance that euthanasia is only being used by the MoD when it is absolutely necessary. It is the very least that our loving, brave and loyal military working animals deserve.