Animal Sentience

Thank you to those local residents who have contacted me about the status of animals as living beings.

As you may be aware, the EU (Withdrawal) Bill will convert the existing body of direct EU animal welfare laws to become UK laws. Most of these EU laws relate to farmed animals and many were passed after Article 13 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) came into effect.

The Animal Protection Index, based on the Animal Welfare Act and maintained by World Animal Protection, rates the UK's formal recognition of animal sentience as grade A. Other Lisbon Treaty signatories such as France, Italy and Spain do not enjoy this rating, having each received grade C.

Article 13 of the TFEU created a qualified obligation on the EU and Member States "to have full regard to the welfare of animals [as they are sentient beings]" when formulating and implementing EU law.

You may be interested to read the letter I have received from the Rt Hon. Michael Gove MP, Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which goes into further detail about Article 13 and the recent vote on New Clause 30 of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill. A copy of this can be found below.

I note that the Government does not believe that Article 13 has delivered the progress in animal welfare that Ministers want to see, particularly as it does not have direct effect in law. In practice, its effect is unclear and it has failed to prevent practices across the EU which are cruel and painful to animals.

In contrast, in the UK, Ministers are improving animal welfare standards without EU input and beyond the scope of Article 13.

Once we have left the EU, we will be able to extend further protections to animals. For example, Ministers hope to look into restricting or banning the live export of animals for slaughter, and cracking down on puppy smuggling or banning the import of puppies under six months, which EU rules currently prevent us from doing.

With regards to New Clause 30 of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, I voted against this as it was a faulty amendment which would not have achieved its stated aims of providing appropriate protection for animals. As the Minister has explained, some voices have suggested that this vote “somehow signalled a weakening in the protection of animals. That is plain wrong. Voting against the amendment was not a vote against the idea that animals are sentient and feel pain. That is a ridiculous misconception”.

During Prime Minister’s Question Time on 22nd November, the Prime Minister also made it clear that the Government will ensure that any necessary changes required to UK law are made in a properly rigorous and comprehensive way to ensure animal sentience is recognised after we leave the EU. If you would like to read her full response, you can do so here.

UPDATE - 13th December:

I am pleased that, yesterday, the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs published a draft Animal Welfare (Sentencing and Recognition of Sentience) Bill which would increase the maximum prison sentence for animal cruelty from six months to five years in England and Wales. The bill also sets out that the Government “must have regard to the welfare needs of animals as sentient beings in formulating and implementing government policy”. The Minister’s full announcement on this can be found here.

The Government has published a consultation on the bill and I would encourage you to share their views as part of this.


Attachment Size
Rt Hon. Michael Gove MP - Animal Sentience - 23.11.17.pdf 85.45 KB