Michael Gove has been accused of making a "complete 180" after letters from his department suggested that there was insufficient evidence for banning electric shock collars for dogs and cats weeks before plans to ban their use were announced.
The Environment Minister confirmed Monday that the government would forbid what he described as "punitive" shock collars that would "harm our pets" after a consultation on proposals in March.
Used as training equipment, the remote-controlled collars can activate an electrical pulse with varying strength, or spray harmful chemicals on the animal.
However, a letter from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in February, as seen by the Press Association, suggested that there was insufficient evidence to support a ban.
The document, sent to the Royal Veterinary College, noted scientific research that it had commissioned "was not strong enough to support a ban" on "electronic training aids for dogs".
A similar statement was made by Defra Minister George Eustice in a letter from 2014, in which he said the department did not believe there were "indications that the use of such devices caused unnecessary suffering".
Dog trainer and campaigner Jamie Penrith said that Mr. Gove had made an "abrupt" policy change without additional evidence.
He told the Press Association that in February the government had "insufficient evidence" to adequately support the suggestion that the collars have a negative impact on prosperity, but that "two weeks later at the beginning of March these" barbarous, punitive devices should be stripped from the market & # 39; ".
"It's a complete 180," added Mr. Penrith and said it was not a prosperity action.
Ian Gregory, a lobbyist for pet collars, said: "The Secretary of State should stop feeding the nation's pets to the wolves of Twitter.
"The anecdotal problems reported with collars for pets can be solved by product standards instead of banning a proven technology.
"The hundreds of thousands of dog owners who use an external trainer do not deserve to be criminalized."
The prohibition of remotely operated electronic training collars is not extended to invisible fencing systems that can keep pets away from and within a limit without receiving a static pulse, the government has announced.
M. Gove said: "We are a nation of animal lovers and the use of punitive shock collars cause damage and suffering to our pets.
"This ban will improve the welfare of animals and I urge pet owners to use positive reward methods instead."
The announcement was welcomed by the Dogs Trust, whose director of dog behavior and research, Dr Rachel Casey, said: "Scientific research has shown that electronic devices that produce an aversive stimulus have a negative impact on the welfare of dogs, so this ban will have a big positive impact for dogs in the UK.
"We are saddened, however, that the government has not taken a step further and has seized this opportunity to ban the use of containment fences, to ensure that all British dogs are protected from this outdated approach to training."
The use of collars is forbidden in Wales and earlier this year Scotland started banning dog owners to use them.
But it is only the British government that can ban their sales across the country.