Daniel Zeichner MP has pledged his support for the Animals (Recognition of Sentience) Bill, introduced in the House of Commons today, commenting that “the concept that animals have feelings and reactions is a basic 21st century principle – this must not be threatened by any possible change in our relationship with the EU.“

The Bill, introduced by Kerry McCarthy, MP for Bristol East, will impose a duty on public bodies to have due regard to the welfare needs of animals as sentient beings when formulating or implementing policy.

amendment to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill calling for the EU Protocol on animal sentience to be recognised in domestic law if the UK leaves the EU, to protect animal rights regardless of Brexit. This was opposed by the Government by 313 votes to 295. Daniel also signed a letter to Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary, calling for him to reconsider the decision to exclude animal sentience from the EU (Withdrawal) Bill after the amendment was defeated.

Animal sentience is protected under Article 13 of the Treaty of Lisbon and states that Member States ‘must pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals’.

The Government published the draft Animal Welfare (Sentencing and Recognition of Sentience) Bill, which proposed to increase maximum sentences for animal cruelty offences. The consultation closed on January 31st 2018, and the Environment Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee carried out pre-legislative scrutiny, recommending splitting the Bill so that the largely uncontroversial sentencing provision could be dealt with separately. 

But it wasn’t until August 2018 that Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs got around to publishing the outcome of the consultation, having apparently been overwhelmed by the response, with 9,084 direct submissions and another 64,169 from 38 Degrees, which had conducted its own survey. Defra took on board the EFRA Select Committee recommendation to split the Bill. But neither bill has emerged since then.

Mr Zeichner comments:

“This cannot wait any longer, so I am glad that my friend Kerry McCarthy is introducing this Bill to push the Government into action. Her Bill will propose establishing an Animal Welfare Advisory Committee to issue Guidance on how the animal sentience principles should be interpreted and applied and ensure that the duty is discharged, giving policy-makers useful advice. Animal welfare issues frequently land in my postbag, and this is clearly a very important issue for constituents in Cambridge. This Bill will make sure that animal welfare takes its rightful place on the agenda, and that animals are properly protected.“

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