Animals to be formally recognised as sentient beings in domestic law

Introduction of the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill as part of the Government's Action Plan for Animal Welfare.

Lord Goldsmith introduced the Bill to formally recognise animals as sentient beings on the 13th of May,

Vertebrate animals will be recognised as sentient beings for the first time in UK law thanks to the introduction of the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill, introduced in Parliament today.

The legislation will also ensure that animal sentience is taken into account when developing policy across Government through the creation of a Animal Sentience Committee which will be made up of animal experts from within the field.

By enshrining sentience in domestic law in this way, any new legislation will have to take into account the fact that animals can experience feelings such as pain or joy. The Bill will underpin the Government’s Action Plan for Animal Welfare, which launched yesterday and sets out the government’s plans to improve standards and eradicate cruel practices for animals both domestically and internationally.

The Bill’s introduction, fulfilling a key Manifesto commitment, will further the UK’s position as a world-leader on animal welfare. Now that we have left the EU we have the opportunity to remake laws and go further to promote animal welfare by making sure that all Government departments properly consider animal sentience when designing policy, covering all vertebrate animals from farm to forest.

The Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill will:

  • Formally recognise animals as sentient beings in domestic law
  • Establish an Animal Sentience Committee made up of experts to ensure cross-departmental government policy considers animal sentience
  • Ensure Government Ministers update parliament on recommendations made by the Animal Sentience Committee

Launching the Bill, Animal Welfare minister Lord Goldsmith said:
“The UK has always led the way on animal welfare and now that we’ve left the EU we are free to drive for the highest standards of animal welfare anywhere in the world. Formally recognising in law that animals are sentient and experience feelings in the same way humans do is just the first step in our flagship Action Plan for Animal Welfare which will further transform the lives of animals in this country and strengthen our position as a global leader.

Chris Platt, Co-founder of Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation , said:

“ We welcome the Animal Sentience Bill. It will enshrine animal sentience in UK law and it recognises animals as sentient beings who can experience pleasure and suffering. Sentience is animals having feelings, both positive and negative. Recognising animals have feelings is central to identifying their needs and improving their welfare. We applaud the new Bill and welcome the establishment of a new Animal Sentience Committee which will apply to policies being developed across all UK Government departments.”

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