Statement : Sentient animals
“I have devoted a considerable part of my parliamentary career to animal welfare – I resigned from a junior Government post over foxhunting – and I continue to do so. I believe that the undertakings given by the Minister of State for Justice, Dominic Raab, who is himself a passionate animal welfare supporter, (Hansard 15th November 2017 Cols.499/500) indicate very clearly both the Government`s direction of travel and the reason why the proposed New Clause 30 is not only otiose but potentially capable of creating legal chaos.
On the floor of the House the Minister of State said:
“The reference to animals as sentient beings is, effectively, a statement of fact in article 13. I can reassure (the House) that it is already recognised as a matter of domestic law, primarily in the Animal welfare Act 2006. If an animal is capable of experiencing pain and suffering it is sentient and therefor afforded protection under that Act.
We have made it clear that we intend to retain our existing standards of welfare once we have left the EU and…to enhance them.
The vehicle of this legislation will convert the existing body of EU animal welfare law into UK law. It will make sure that the same protections are in place in the UK and that laws still function effectively after the UK leaves the EU……….
Animals will continue to be recognised as sentient beings under domestic law in the way that I have described. We will consider how we might explicitly reflect that sentience principle in wider UK legislation.
To tack onto the (European Union Withdrawal Bill) New Clause 30, which simply refers to Article 13 would add nothing. The new clause is unnecessary and is liable only to generate legal uncertainty”
The Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation, of which I have the honour to be President, will continue to press for post-Brexit improvements in animal welfare and the cause of animals as sentient beings and if it becomes apparent that amendment or reinforcement of legislation , either of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 or of Michael Gove`s proposed Environment Bill, is necessary then we shall support such a measure.
That, I believe, is a better way forward than an over-reaction to the rejection of what was an unsatisfactory and flawed proposal”.
Sir Roger Gale MP
Roger Gale is a Patron of Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation, an Honorary Full Member of the British Veterinary Association and a Life-Member of the League Against Cruel Sports.