Thank you to those who have contacted me about the Crustacean Compassion campaign for decapod crustaceans to be recognised as sentient beings in UK law. Decapods are currently excluded from animal welfare legislation and as a result, welfare standards on storage and slaughter do not apply to them.
The Opposition has consulted on its Animal Welfare Plan. One of the proposals under consideration is expanding the definition of animal to include decapod crustaceans, such as lobsters, and cephalopods, such as squid, in line with countries like Norway, New Zealand and Switzerland.
It is vital that the principle of animal sentience is enshrined in domestic law as the UK leaves the European Union, covering all policy areas to prevent practices that expose animals to cruel and degrading treatment. I supported an amendment to the European Union (Withdrawal) Act that would have incorporated Article 13, which protects the legal status of animals as sentient beings, into UK law. However, this was opposed and defeated by the Government.
Instead, the Government published a draft Animal Welfare (Sentencing and Recognition of Sentience) Bill which it said would reflect the principle of animal sentience in UK law after Brexit. I believe the draft Bill was a rushed and haphazard attempt to backtrack on the mistake of not including animal sentience in the Withdrawal Act.
The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee found that the bill was in a far from finished state. It reported that the bill failed to define key terms such as ‘animal’, which could weaken requirements towards non-vertebrates.
The Government says it is committed to ensuring that any necessary changes required to UK law are made in a rigorous and comprehensive way to ensure animal sentience is recognised after we leave the EU. It says officials are continuing to engage with stakeholders to further refine proposals.
However, there is no indication of when the Government will bring forward this promised legislation on sentience and there are real questions as to whether it will be tabled in the foreseeable future.