Vertebrate animals will be recognised as sentient beings for the first time in UK law thanks to the introduction of the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill, introduced in Parliament today.
The legislation will also ensure that animal sentience is taken into account when developing policy across Government through the creation of an Animal Sentience Committee which will be made up of animal experts from within the field.
By enshrining sentience in domestic law in this way, any new legislation will have to take into account the fact that animals can experience feelings such as pain or joy. The Bill will underpin the Government’s Action Plan for Animal Welfare, which launched yesterday and sets out the government’s plans to improve standards and eradicate cruel practices for animals both domestically and internationally.
The Bill’s introduction, fulfilling a key Manifesto commitment, will further the UK’s position as a world-leader on animal welfare. Now that Britain has left the EU we have the opportunity to remake laws and go further to promote animal welfare by making sure that all Government departments properly consider animal sentience when designing policy, covering all vertebrate animals from farm to forest.
The Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill will:
- formally recognise animals as sentient beings in domestic law
- establish an Animal Sentience Committee made up of experts to ensure cross departmental government policy considers animal sentience
- ensure Government Ministers update parliament on recommendations made by the Animal Sentience Committee
Launching the Bill, Animal Welfare minister Lord Goldsmith said:
Claire Bass, Executive Director of Humane Society International/UK added:
James West, Senior Policy Manager, Compassion in World Farming, said:
The UK has a long history of improving the lives of animals, being the first country in the world to pass legislation to protect animals in 1822 with the Cruel Treatment of Cattle Act and later the landmark Protection of Animals Act in 1911.
The British have continued to uphold this tradition of high welfare standards over the years through many reforms, ranging from banning the use of battery cages for laying hens and introducing compulsory CCTV in slaughter houses and most recently raising the maximum sentence for animal cruelty from six months to five years.