Defra introduces animal sentience requirement in draft Bill
12th Dec 2017 / By Alistair Driver
Defra has published a draft Bill that sets a requirement for the Government to treat animals as sentient beings in formulating and implementing policy.
The draft Bill, which will increase the maximum sentence for animal abuse of domestic pets from six months to five years, follows the furore over the Government vote in November to reject an amendment which sought to transfer the EU Protocol on animal sentience and enshrine Article 13 of the Lisbon Treaty into UK law.
Defra said the plans underline the Government’s commitment to raising animal welfare standards, ensuring there will be enhanced protections for animals as we leave the EU.
Defra Secretary Michael Gove said: "As we leave the EU we will deliver a Green Brexit, not only maintaining but enhancing animal welfare standards.
"Animals are sentient beings who feel pain and suffering, so we are writing that principle into law and ensuring that we protect their welfare.
"Our plans will also increase sentences for those who commit the most heinous acts of animal cruelty to five years in jail.
"We are a nation of animal lovers so we will make Brexit work not just for citizens but for the animals we love and cherish too."
After the Government was accused of trying to weaken animal welfare legislation following the Article 13 vote, Mr Gove issued a statement insisting it recognised that animals are sentient beings. "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," he said.
The draft Bill is part of a wider programme of reform to cement the UK’s position as a global leader on animal welfare, Defra added. Earlier in the year, it announced plans to make CCTV mandatory in all slaughterhouses and it has committed to taking steps to control the export of live farm animals for slaughter.