PM intervenes in animal sentience furore
22nd Nov 2017 / By Alistair Driver
NPA chief executive Zoe Davies has called for balance in the reaction to the vote on recognising animal sentience in UK law post Brexit.
The association pointed out that recognition of sentience in animals will be maintained through our current legislation.
As the controversy threatened to spin out of control, the Prime Minister intervened on Wednesday. During Prime Minister's Questions, Theresa May told MPs the Government 'recognises and respects the fact that animals are sentient beings and should be treated accordingly'.
She said: "The Animal Welfare Act 2006 provides protection for all animals capable of experiencing pain or suffering which are under the control of man. But I reaffirm tthat we will be ensuring that we maintain and enhance our animal welfare standards when we leave the EU."
Last week's vote prompted a major backlash after Green MEP Caroline Lucas submitted an amendment which sought to transfer the EU Protocol on animal sentience into UK law. The new clause was rejected with a majority of 18 for the Government.
During last week's eight-hour Commons debate, Justice Minister Dominic Raab said the Government supported the principle behind the proposed clause but 'cannot accept it'.
The reference to animals as sentient beings is already recognised as a matter of domestic law, primarily in the Animal Welfare Act 2006, he said.
"If an animal is capable of experiencing pain and suffering, it is sentient and therefore afforded protection under that Act," he said.
"We have made it clear that we intend to retain our existing standards of animal welfare once we have left the EU and, indeed, to enhance them. The vehicle of this legislation will convert the existing body of EU animal welfare law into UK law. It will make sure that the same protections are in place in the UK and that laws still function effectively after the UK leaves the EU.
"In this country—we should be proud to say this—we have some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world, and we intend to remain a world leader in the future. Leaving the EU will not prevent us from further maintaining such standards; in fact, it will free us in some regards to develop our own gold-standard protections on animal welfare."
It is understood there was concern within Government that the direct transfer of the EU regulation on the issue would restrict the further development of animal welfare standards in the UK.
Zoe said: "There has been a lot of froth about this and it is largely based on a misunderstanding. If anything, the Government is looking to raise animal welfare standards.
"We as an industry remain hugely proud of our high animal welfare standards and are campaigning hard to ensure they are maintained, and not diluted, on the global market after we leave the EU."
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