Thank you for contacting me about animal sentience legislation which had it’s second reading in the House of Commons on Wednesday, 18th January.
I have long supported calls to enshrine the principle of animal sentience in UK law to prevent practices that expose both wild and domestic animals to cruel and degrading treatment. There is a wealth of scientific evidence proving that animals can feel and experience pain and we must adopt that recognition in UK law to move forward on animal welfare, rather than going backwards.
As you know, after promises made in 2017 following pressure from the public and animal welfare organisations to introduce such legislation following the UK’s departure from the European Union, the UK Government introduced the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill in May 2021 to the House of Lords. This received its Second Reading on 16 June 2021.
I strongly welcome this Bill and believe that the formal and legal recognition of animal sentience sends a clear message that we are committed as a country to protecting the welfare of animals.
I welcome the fact that the legislation will apply across all Government departments and that it appears to include wild animals, but I am concerned that it has taken a long time to be introduced and that it is vague in many respects. For it to be meaningful, any commitment on paper must be followed up in practice and, to truly improve animal welfare, there needs to be prospective – not just retrospective – consideration of Government policies.
I also believe that the definition of an animal should be expanded beyond its current stipulations to include crustaceans and cephalopods.
Ensuring the health and welfare of sentient animals is important as a marker of social progress, and so I will continue to press for action to make much-needed improvements to the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill, and to ensure animal sentience is formally recognised in law at the earliest opportunity.
Thank you once again for contacting me about this issue.