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Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill introduced in Parliament

13th May 2021 / By Alistair Driver

The Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill, which ensures vertebrate animals will be recognised as sentient beings for the first time in UK law has been introduced in Parliament today.

The legislation, which follows the publication of Defra's Animal Welfare Action plan yesterday, will also ensure that animal sentience is taken into account when developing policy across Government through the creation of a Animal Sentience Committee which will be made up of animal experts from within the field.

By enshrining sentience in domestic law in this way, any new legislation will have to take into account the fact that animals can experience feelings such as pain or joy. The Bill will underpin the Action Plan, which sets out the government’s plans to 'improve standards and eradicate cruel practices for animals both domestically and internationally'.

The Bill’s introduction, fulfilling a key Manifesto commitment, will further the UK’s position as a world-leader on animal welfare in the post-Brexit world, Defra said.

The Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill will:

  • formally recognise animals as sentient beings in domestic law
  • establish an Animal Sentience Committee made up of experts to ensure cross departmental government policy considers animal sentience
  • ensure Government Ministers update parliament on recommendations made by the Animal Sentience Committee.

Launching the Bill, Animal Welfare minister Lord Goldsmith said: “The UK has always led the way on animal welfare and now that we’ve left the EU we are free to drive for the highest standards of animal welfare anywhere in the world.

“Formally recognising in law that animals are sentient and experience feelings in the same way humans do is just the first step in our flagship Action Plan for Animal Welfare which will further transform the lives of animals in this country and strengthen our position as a global leader."