UPDATE: The draft Animal Welfare (Sentencing and Recognition of Sentience) Bill sets out that the Government “must have regard to the welfare needs of animals as sentient beings in formulating and implementing government policy”, and will also increase the sentences available to the courts in the most severe cases of animal cruelty to up to five years’ imprisonment.
You will be pleased to know that the Environment Secretary has confirmed that the sentience of animals will continue to be recognised and animal welfare protections strengthened when the UK leaves the EU.
The vote against New Clause 30 was not a vote against the idea that animals are sentient and feel pain – that is a misconception. Ministers explained on the floor of the house that this Government’s policies on animal welfare are driven by the recognition that animals are indeed sentient beings and the Government are acting energetically to reduce the risk of harm to animals – whether on farms or in the wild. The vote against New Clause 30 was the rejection of a faulty amendment, which would not have achieved its stated aims of providing appropriate protection for animals. This government will ensure that any necessary changes required to UK law are made in a rigorous and comprehensive way to ensure animal sentience is recognised after the UK leaves the EU. The Withdrawal Bill is not the right place to address this.
You can read the Secretary of State’s full statement on this issue here https://www.gov.uk/government/news/environment-secretary-confirms-sentience-of-animals-will-continue-to-be-recognised-and-protections-strengthened-when-we-leave-the-eu
Indeed this forms part of this Government’s wider work on animal welfare and the environment. In the past few weeks alone the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs has indeed introduced a number of excellent measures. They include plans to consult on a new independent body for environmental standards, introducing CCTV in all slaughterhouses in England in 2018, further restrictions on neonicotinoid pesticides, a ban on microbeads, a ban on ivory sales and increasing sentences for animal cruelty tenfold to five years.
I hope this clarifies that it is not the case that the Government has rejected the sentience of animals and that the Government is working hard to protect animal welfare and the environment.