Time is running out to enshrine animal sentience legislation in law pre-Brexit

23 April 2018

Recognising animals as sentient beings capable of feelings such as pain and contentment is a founding principle of animal welfare science

The British Veterinary
Association (BVA) is calling on the Government to ensure that animal sentience
legislation is enshrined in law before the UK leaves the EU.

The call comes as the
Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has today
responded to the Efra Committee's Pre-Legislative Scrutiny of the draft Animal
Welfare (Sentencing and Recognition of Sentience) Bill 2017.

The committee's report
had called for revisions to the Bill and recommended that clause 1 covering
animal sentience should be removed and replaced with a new Animal Sentience
Bill. Defra has responded to say that it
is actively looking at drafting solutions which will directly address the
Committee's concerns and improve clarity, and will set out more details about
how the measures in the draft bill will be taken forward in due course.

draft Bill was introduced in response to the campaign for Article 13 of the
Lisbon Treaty to be included in the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, which would recognise
the sentience of animals and impose a duty on the state to have regard for
animal welfare when developing and implementing policy.

BVA President John Fishwick said: “Rather than entirely going back to the
drawing board, we would urge the Government to reflect on and refine the
existing draft bill so that it can address concerns raised by the Committee's
report. Making wholesale revisions at
this stage or making a start on additional legislation would leave this crucial
bill at the mercy of the tight legislative timetable and run the risk of
missing the boat on embedding the principles by March 2019.

members' strength of feeling on this issue was made resoundingly clear when
over 1,000 vets signed an open letter in support of enshrining the concept of
animal sentience in law pre-Brexit. The
Government must act swiftly to ensure that the opportunity isn't missed to
uphold the UK's global reputation for animal welfare.”

Related BVA policy