MPs have voted to reject a bill that recognises that animals feel pain and emotion. Affecting the EU Withdrawal Bill, the clause would have enshrined into UK law the recognition that animals feel pain and emotion, an admission currently covered by EU law. Some 80 per cent of animal welfare legislation currently comes from the EU but after March 2019 European law will no longer apply in the UK.
While most EU law relating to animals will be automatically brought over into UK law, this will not apply to the recognition of sentience. The clause, submitted by Green MP Caroline Lucas, was rejected 313 against, 295 in favour. During a debate in parliament the Government said animal sentience is covered by the Animal Welfare Act 2006. But the RSPCA disagree and has slammed the vote as extremely disappointing.
Caroline Lucas submitted the clause (Picture: Mark Thomas/REX/Shutterstock)
RSPCA head of public affairs David Bowles said: ‘It’s shocking. This is truly a backward step for animal welfare. ‘Only domestic animals are really covered by the provisions of the act and animals in the wild and laboratories are expressly exempt. ‘It is simply wrong for the Government to claim that the act protects animal sentience.
‘If the UK is to achieve the Environment Secretary’s objective of achieving the highest possible animal welfare post-Brexit, it must do the same. ‘Animals are not ‘commodities’ and any laws impacting on them needs to take into account their capacity to suffer. They are sentient beings, with feelings and emotions.’ British Veterinary Association senior vice president Gudrun Ravetz said: ‘It is extremely concerning.
‘Enshrining animal sentience in UK law would have acknowledged that we consider animals as being capable of feelings such as pain and contentment and, so, deserving of consideration and respect. ‘It is a founding principle of animal welfare science, and for the way that we should treat all animals. ‘Yet actions speak louder than words, and this action undermines the Government’s previous promises that the UK will continue to be known for our high standards of animal health and welfare post-Brexit. ‘There is now an urgent need for clarity from Government on how the provisions in Article 13 will be enshrined in UK law to ensure we do not fall short of the high standards we expect as a nation of animal lovers.’