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Animal welfare coalition welcomes new proposal to enshrine animal sentience in UK law

A backbench proposal to recognise animal sentience in UK law on Wednesday (3 April 2019) is being welcomed by animal welfare groups in the face of government continuing to procrastinate on bringing forward promised legislation.

2 April 2019, at 8:23pm

MP Kerry McCarthy is bringing forward an Animal Sentience Bill, in an initiative warmly welcomed by 39 animal welfare groups. Although the Westminster Government had committed to bringing forward legislation on this matter itself the animal welfare coalition is disappointed that it still hasn’t acted on its promise, with potentially only weeks to go until the UK leaves the EU.

Kerry McCarthy, MP for Bristol East, said: “It’s now over 500 days since the Government promised to recognise animal sentience in UK law before our departure from the European Union. Yet here we stand with the clock ticking down and no legislation in sight. That’s why I’m introducing my Animals (Recognition of Sentience) Bill on Wednesday to acknowledge that many animals are capable of feeling pleasure, pain and suffering. The Government said it was looking for a vehicle to bring forward the legislation. I’ve provided it, now they should back it.”

David Bowles, Head of Public Affairs for the RSPCA said: “While we very much welcome the Animal Sentience Bill brought forward by Kerry McCarthy MP, we are extremely disappointed that the UK Government has not acted on its promise and introduced its own legislation.

“Such an important issue should not have to rely on backbench MPs bringing forward legislation. The Government should stand squarely behind such a law and present it themselves. With research showing that eight out of 10 British people (81 percent) believe that animal welfare laws should be maintained or strengthened post-Brexit, the government risks an outcry if it doesn’t uphold its promise to the UK’s animal lovers.

“It’s time for the Westminster government to act on its commitment to introduce meaningful Animal Sentence legislation so animals have the same or better protection post-Brexit than they do now.”

The warning follows the launch of the #BetterDealForAnimals campaign in February, to make sure that animals don’t become victims of Brexit. The campaign is calling for animal sentience to be explicitly enshrined in UK law, as it is in the EU, and for any future legislation or Government (including both Ministers and public bodies), when formulating and implementing policy, to fully take into account its impact on the welfare of animals. Without this, the UK Government’s current planned legislation will weaken protection for animals across the country.