How animal sentience will be recognised in UK law and policy following Brexit

23 November 2017

We welcome the Government’s statement that animal sentience will still be recognised in UK law after Brexit. When more details on how they will do this are made available, we will review the UK's top A rating in our Animal Protection Index.

World Animal Protection welcomes the Government announcement that it will ensure that animal sentience continues to be recognised in any changes to UK law after we leave the EU. Over the past few months there has been much debate about how to include Article 13 of the Lisbon Treaty (which states that animals are sentient beings) into the EU Withdrawal Bill. Over the past few months we have been seeking a clear commitment about how animal sentience will be recognised in law and to inform and develop policy after Brexit. 

We strongly urge the Government to publish more specific details of the legislative vehicle it proposes to use as soon as possible, and to openly engage with animal protection organisations throughout the development of this proposal.

World Animal Protection will then examine the proposals as part of its 2018 review of its Animal Protection Index (API): a classification of 50 countries according to their commitments to protect animals. This will be published next year with updated ratings for each country, including an assessment of whether the UK has maintained it's current top 'A' standard.

In recent days the API has been cited as a way of assessing the UK Government’s commitment to recognising sentience. The API was published in 2014 and was the very first attempt to understand global animal protection. Animal welfare policy and laws were reviewed and assessed against specific indicators and standards offering the first comprehensive view of global performance on this subject. 

One of the indicators in the index makes an assessment of countries’ acknowledgement of animal sentience. We have therefore been concerned that the UK Government rejected an amendment to incorporate Article 13 of the Lisbon Treaty on sentience into the EU Withdrawal Bill without stating how this scientific and moral principle would be enshrined elsewhere in UK law.

While we therefore welcome today's announcement, World Animal Protection will be offering to work closely with the Government to develop its more specific proposals. We want to ensure the UK maintains its reputation as one of the most progressive countries in the world in its recognition of sentience and protection of animal welfare.

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