We’ve been leading the Better Deal For Animals coalition, a group of 43 of the country’s leading animal protection organisations, united in calling on the government to pass a law recognising that animals are sentient (able to feel pain and suffering).
Passing this law is important as it will mean that animals will legally have greater protections.
Together, we launched a petition with singer and TV personality Alesha Dixon and thanks to you the petition gained over 100,000 signatures and secured a Parliamentary debate on animal sentience.
The debate was initially scheduled to take place last September but was unfortunately rescheduled due to Parliament being put on hold. But last week on Monday 16 March it went ahead and MPs finally debated this crucial issue.
Crabs and lobsters should be regarded as sentient
Kerry McCarthy MP (Labour Party) opened the debate and reminded MPs that the government had first provided assurances in 2017 that animal sentience would be recognised in UK law – and yet we are still waiting. She also stressed the importance of including shellfish such as crabs and lobsters as sentient animals in any law brought forward.
Speeches from MPs
Kerry was followed by several speeches from MPs, such as one given by Patricia Gibson MP (SNP) who warned that animals must urgently be recognised as sentient beings in UK law to avoid weakening of animal welfare standards in ongoing trade negotiations.
The Shadow Secretary of State, Luke Pollard MP (Labour), also gave his and the Labour Party’s full support to the Better Deal For Animals campaign and thanked the organisations for their ongoing efforts. He underlined the urgency of animal sentience legislation and stated that we need to establish an independent Animal Welfare Advisory Commission to hold all government departments to account.
Government fails to commit to animal sentience law in 2020
The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) Minister Victoria Prentis MP responded to the debate on behalf of the government by reiterating her support for the legislation but disappointingly failed to commit to bringing it in this year. Importantly, this goes against constant government pledges that animal sentience law will be passed before the transition period is over.
If as Minister Prentis implies the government fails to introduce and pass the law before the 31 December 2020, legal protections afforded to animals from EU law will no longer apply from 1 January 2021 and animals will be left unprotected in the UK.
Governments’ response confusing and concerning
Kerry McCarthy MP concluded the debate by stating that the Ministers lack of commitment has left her confused and concerned. She kindly stood up for all of the 43 organisations in the Better Deal For Animals coalition and our collective millions of supporters saying that we would be alarmed that the government was going back on their promise to bring in this law before the end of the Brexit transition period. She stated, “the government has made a clear commitment and everyone expects the government to live up to this commitment.”
We couldn’t agree more and thank Kerry McCarthy MP and all of the MPs who attended and spoke up for a Better Deal For Animals. We will continue to push the government to recognise animal sentience in UK law as soon as possible.
Sign up to our newsletter to keep up to date on this issue.