‎By Anna Wilmot

Following a vote in parliament on November 15th, after Brexit, UK law will no longer acknowledge that animals are able to experience feelings (are sentient beings).

95% of MPs took part in the vote. All Conservative and DUP MP’s voted against, all Labour, Green, Liberal Democrat, and SNP voted in favour of the Amendment clause. This clause sought to transfer the EU Protocol on animal sentience into UK law, so that animals continue to be recognised as sentient beings under domestic law.

Soil Association response
“No livestock farmer or pet owner would ever be persuaded that their animals are not capable of suffering, or capable of feeling. This narrow vote goes against the grain of our ever increasing scientific understanding of non-human animals, and against the grain of our own humanity, so we urge the Government to reconsider.”

British Veterinary Association response
“It is extremely concerning”
“Enshrining animal sentience in UK law would have acknowledged that we consider animals as being capable of feelings such as pain and contentment and, so, deserving of consideration and respect.”
“Actions speak louder than words, and this action undermines the Government’s previous promises that the UK will continue to be known for our high standards of animal health and welfare post-Brexit.”
“Yes, as Ministers argue, we have the Animal Welfare Acts in the four countries of the UK and they are some of the best pieces of welfare legislation in the world. But they don’t state that all animals are sentient beings, and, vitally, they don’t explicitly put the duty on the state to consider animal welfare when developing and implementing other policies. This is an important distinction.”
“Ministers have suggested that there are other ways to enshrine this concept into UK law, for example by making a statement on the floor of the House (a rather quaint way of putting into public record the Government’s intentions). But we have consulted with Mike Radford, an expert in animal welfare law at the University of Aberdeen, and when we asked if this would be sufficient his answer was an emphatic no.”

RSPCA response
“It is simply wrong for the Government to claim that the Act protects animal sentience.”
“In the EU, we know that the recognition of animals as sentient beings has been effective in improving animal welfare across the region. If the UK is to achieve the Environment Secretary’s objective of achieving the highest possible animal welfare post-Brexit, it must do the same.”
“Since the recognition of animals as sentient beings, the EU has banned the use of barren battery cages and ended animal testing for cosmetics.”

Dogs Trust response
“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.”
“Officials are strongly urging 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.”

Why then, did all of our Shropshire MP’s (Daniel Kawczynski, Lucy Allen, Mark Pritchard, Owen Patterson, Phillip Dunne) vote against this Amendment clause?

We’re sure that the 52% who took part in the EU referendum and voted to leave, did not do so with the intention of reducing Britain’s high standards of animal welfare.
If you would like to tell your MP why you believe animals have feelings, and why you feel that this should continue to be acknowledged by the law when we leave the EU, they can be contacted via writetothem.com.

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