Written by : Joe Vesey-Byrne
During debate on the EU withdrawal bill parliament rejected an amendment that would have inserted the legal status of animal sentience.
The vote, largely on party lines, saw 313 MPs vote against including the legal recognition for animals’ sentience in the EU withdrawal bill.
‘Sentience’ recognises that animals have feelings, emotions, interact with one another, and cannot be treated as other products and stock that are inanimate.
80 per cent of animal welfare legislation comes from EU law.
Recognising that animals feel pain and have emotions was incorporated into EU law via the Lisbon Treaty. The defeated clause sought to transfer EU protocol on animal sentience contained in Article 13 of the Lisbon Treaty into UK law.
It was introduced by Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, and was rejected by just 18 votes.
Speaking in the House of Commons on 20 July, the Environment Secretary Michael Gove pledged that sentience would ‘absolutely’ be included in the Withdrawal Bill.
Absolutely. Before we entered the European Union, we recognised in our own legislation that animals were sentient beings. I am an animal, we are all animals, and therefore I care— [interrupted] I am predominantly herbivorous, I should add. It is an absolutely vital commitment that we have to ensure that all creation is maintained, enhanced and protected.
Gove was asked by Conservative MP Henry Smith to confirm that Article 13 of the Lisbon Treaty would be included in the ‘repeal bill’.
During the debate on 15 November the government claimed that sentience was already covered by the Animal Welfare Act (2006), which has been disputed by groups such as RSPCA.