Thank you to everyone who has emailed asking me to commit to supporting the continued legal recognition of animal sentience.
The Labour Party has a strong record on animal rights and we are not about to change that now. We have a moral duty to treat the animals we share our planet with in a humane and compassionate way and Brexit must not lead to any watering down of existing standards on animal welfare.
As many of you know, Article 13 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union protects the legal status of animals as sentient beings. In its current form, the Draft European Union (Withdrawal) Bill will not ensure its preservation in UK law.
Last week (November 15th) I voted in favour of New Clause 30 which sought to amend the bill and retain the rights and obligations contained in Article 13. I also support Amendment 350, which has been tabled by the Official Opposition and will be debated over the coming weeks. This amendment would similarly ensure that the Government is held to the animal welfare standards enshrined in Article 13 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
Unfortunately, when New Clause 30 was pressed to a vote it was rejected by the Government and defeated. The Minister argued that animals are already recognised as sentient beings under domestic law and that this will continue to be the case. The Government has since said that it will ensure any necessary changes required to UK law are made to ensure animal sentience is recognised after we leave the EU.
I believe this is inadequate and that the Government should reverse its decision and amend the Repeal Bill without further delay. I will therefore support Amendment 350 if it is pushed to a vote during the Bill's remaining stages.
I also intend to support amendments that aim to ensure there is no weakening of EU-derived rights - including on animal welfare standards - because of Brexit; and I can assure you that I will continue to press for existing standards on animal welfare to be transposed into British law and strengthened where necessary.