Dogs Trust warns there is a real risk of animal welfare laws slipping in the UK as MPs voted not to include animal sentience in the EU Withdrawal Bill on Wednesday evening. This is a huge blow for animal welfare as this would have ensured that these obligations, currently in EU law, would have been recognised in UK law after Brexit.
Although the UK is currently a country with some of the better animal welfare standards in Europe, when it comes to animal sentience – the capacity to feel, perceive, or experience – the UK has no legal instrument other than Article 13 of the EU Lisbon Treaty*, which states that animals are sentient beings.
Dogs Trust Veterinary Director, Paula Boyden, comments:
“Animals are sentient beings whose welfare should be protected. We need to ensure that this principle is retained in future UK legislation after we leave the EU otherwise there is a risk to our animal welfare standards. The current EU requirement to fully consider animal sentience obliges policymakers to pass progressive animal welfare laws and is important for ethical reasons as well as to protect animal welfare. We are a nation of animal lovers and we implore Government to remember this as we exit the EU.”
Caroline Lucas MP who raised the amendment last night comments:
"Yesterday's decision by the Government to vote down my amendment on animal sentience really was disappointing. This change would have guaranteed that animals don’t become collateral damage in the Brexit negotiations – and it's a real shame it was rejected. I know that animal lovers will be concerned by this setback, but there's still a chance that the House of Lords can change the Bill – and enshrine animals sentience into British law."
Dogs Trust now strongly urges the House of Lords to take forward the issue of animal sentience when the EU Withdrawal Bill is debated there, most likely early next year.
* In formulating and implementing the Union's agriculture, fisheries, transport, internal market, research and technological development and space policies, the Union and the Member States shall, since animals are sentient beings, pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals, while respecting the legislative or administrative provisions and customs of the Member States relating in particular to religious rites, cultural traditions and regional heritage.