16 February 2015

OATA and REPTA will be pressing to meet the Scottish Government to challenge its plans to review the exotic pet trade which, if successful, could stop people keeping ornamental fish and reptiles across the border.

The announcement came on Sunday from Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs Richard Lochhead who wants to review the trade and importation of exotic animals for the pet trade in Scotland, after meeting animal campaign group OneKind.

“It seems our concerns behind the Hands Off My Hobby campaign – relaunched just four weeks ago – is coming true already,” said OATA Chief Executive Keith Davenport.

“We warned that animal campaign groups had this hobby in their sights and it looks as if they have persuaded the Scottish Government to take the lead on limiting the species that people can keep as pets, including ornamental fish and reptiles.

“Of course we agree with concerns about animal welfare, unregulated internet trading and protecting native flora and fauna. It’s disappointing that the Scotland Parliament wants to lead the way in preventing significant numbers of its electorate from keeping the fish and reptiles they love.

“If this news doesn’t make hobbyists and the industry – particularly in Scotland but everywhere in the UK – get behind the Hands Off My Hobby campaign and lobby their MPs and MSPs then nothing will. It might start in Scotland but we think similar reviews of exotic pets could follow in England, Wales and Northern Ireland after the election – when SNPs could hold the balance of power in Westminster.

“It seems there is no intention to talk to the trade or hobbyists during this review. According to his press release Mr Lochhead is just going to talk to ‘animal welfare groups, veterinary organisations and biologists’. So if we’re not going to be asked then it’s down to us to make our voice heard.

“If you live in Scotland not only do you need to lobby your MP but you need to tell your local MSP and Richard Lochhead what you think of his plans. And the rest of the UK needs to sit up and take note that what happens in Scotland could happen where they are. Sign our petition and get writing to your MP – please don’t be complacent.”

Chris Newman, of Reptile and Exotic Pet Trade Association (REPTA) said: “Today we increasingly keep animals for companionship and enjoyment and fewer households require pets to control pests, provide food (rabbits, pigeons etc) or hunt for us (dogs, ferrets). It is imperative that prospective owners should be able to choose from a wide range of species in order to obtain the pet which best fits their lifestyle, budget and circumstances and white or positive lists can only be detrimental by restricting that choice.

“The only positive thing about a ‘positive list’ is that it is positively detrimental to the welfare of pets. Rendering animals effectively extinct in captivity when they have been successfully kept for decades (or even centuries) by private keepers cannot possibly benefit welfare or conservation and is only being considered to placate the minority but vocal animal rights industry.”

OATA estimates that 250,000 homes in Scotland keep pet fish in aquariums and ponds. On fish alone, curtailing the hobby could mean 1,000 jobs gone and £40 million a year out of the economy in Scotland. And there would be knock-on effect in some of the poorest parts of the world where people rely on income from catching live fish for the aquarium trade.

Find more information on how to join the Hands Off My Hobby campaign go to campaign website.