The world of animal welfare has lost a great supporter with the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, a lifelong animal lover and a key figure in the advancement of animal rights in Great Britain, and around the world. (Keep scrolling to see how she got involved with the circus)
Best known for her love for her fleet of royal corgis, Queen Elizabeth II also had a penchant for horses, pets like cats, birds, and small animals, and livestock like pigs, cows, and sheep. Many of Queen Elizabeth II’s efforts, especially in later years, were focused on improving animal welfare in Great Britain, including pushing specific legislation to ban animal cruelty and improve conditions for livestock.
Queen Elizabeth II: A Life-Long Animal Lover
In late 2021, Queen Elizabeth II announced new animal welfare policies during her 67th annual parliamentary address. Many speculate that this motion was a direct response to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who had included promises of animal welfare policy changes in his 2019 campaign but never followed through once elected.
The new laws introduced in 2021 included increased sentencing for people convicted of animal cruelty, changes to live animal exportation policies, and an introduction of an animal sentience recognition policy.
Far from Queen Elizabeth II’s first foray into animal rights and welfare, the late queen was linked to at least 600 charities and non-profits, including organizations like the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), the British Veterinary Association (BVA), and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), which has been working to advance animal welfare since 1824 and is considered by many to be the world’s first formally organized animal welfare organization.
“A dedicated public servant and a lifelong animal lover, as our Patron for more than 7 decades she helped build the UK’s international reputation for high standards of animal welfare, supported the vital work of our veterinary professionals, and improved the lives of animals both here in the UK and across the world. We are eternally grateful for [Queen Elizabeth II’s] service and our hearts and thoughts are with her family, her friends, and the nation.”
Justine Shotton, BVA President
Notable Animal Welfare Legislation Over a 70-Year Reign
It would be nearly impossible to detail Queen Elizabeth II’s entire legacy as an animal welfare advocate, but we can mention a few of the most notable pieces of legislation for which Her Majesty gave her Royal Ascent.
1. Wild Animals in Circuses Act
Approved by the queen in 2019, the Wild Animals in Circuses Act banned traveling circuses from keeping, transporting, and displaying wild animals as part of their shows. Any wild animals used as performers are strictly prohibited, and “wild” animals are classified as non-domesticated species like big cats and elephants.
2. The Fur Farming (Prohibition) Act
Approved by the queen in November of 2000, the Fur Farming (Prohibition) Act specifically banned the keeping of animals for the specific purpose of harvesting their skin and fur. The passing of this act helped to close 11 fur farms, which primarily produced mink.
3. The Hunting Act
Approved by the queen in 2004, the Hunting Act banned the use of dogs to hunt mammals like deer, foxes, rabbits, mink, and more. Hunters are still allowed to use hunting dogs to flush out or track prey, but the Hunting Act all but eliminated the use of dogs to kill or injure wild animals.
4. Animal Welfare Act
Approved by the queen in 2006, the Animal Welfare Act consolidated and superseded upwards of 20 previous animal welfare policies. This new piece of legislation upheld a variety of welfare regulations and introduced new policies like restricting cosmetic tail docking for dog breeders and clarifying the standard of care pet owners are required to uphold.
Queen Elizabeth II wasn’t the only animal lover in the Royal Family! Check out the touching story of how Prince Harry and Meghan Markle adopted a beagle rescued from an enormous breeding facility.