New Government report on animal sentience


The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) committee has published a report, commenting on the draft Animal Welfare (Sentencing and Recognition of Sentience) Bill, taking on board a number of our recommendations.

Young pigs running through farm area (c) RSPCA

The report which was published today recommends, amongst other things, that the government introduces a separate piece of legislation on animal sentience, as a part of the Animal Welfare act.

David Bowles, our assistant director of public affairs said:

“we welcome this report from the EFRA Committee, and are pleased that they’ve taken on board recommendations from the RSPCA."

Recommendations within the report

David Bowles states:

The RSPCA recommended that to prevent delay and confusion, Clause one of the Animal Welfare Bill, which relates to animal sentience, was separated from a Bill to introduce tougher sentencing.

We’re pleased that the Committee agree with us and have called for two separate pieces of legislation.

The Committee has also called for the new Bill to better define what sentience means. We’ll continue to urge for decapod crustaceans, such as crabs and lobsters, and cephalopods, such as squid and octopuses, to be recognised as sentient.

The report has also echoed our calls for clarity on how ministers will assess the sentience of animals against public benefit in future legislation.

Origins of the report

In November last year, MPs voted ‘No’ to including the recognition of animal sentience in the EU Withdrawal Bill. Following public outcry over this decision, the Government drafted a new Animal Welfare (Sentencing and Recognition of Sentience) Bill.

The Government then launched a public consultation on the draft. We made recommendations to improve this Bill, a number of which were taken up by the EFRA Committee.

Tougher sentencing for animal cruelty

The report also comments on the proposals for tougher sentencing within the draft Animal Welfare Bill.

David Bowles said:

We welcomed the Government's commitment to increase sentencing for the most serious offences of cruelty and animal fighting.

We agree with the Committee that this should be further extended beyond the Animal Welfare Act 2006. We would like to see sentences increased for offences under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, and the Protection of Badgers Act 1992. We’d also like to see sentences reviewed for some breaches of the regulations on Welfare of Farmed Animals.

The Government must work swiftly

Despite the positive news, we remain concerned that these urgent developments for animal welfare may become lost in the vast amount of legislative work that needs to be done in the lead to Brexit.

As David Bowles adds:

We welcome this report and urge the Government to consider and implement its recommendations swiftly. In a crowded legislative environment, the sentience legislation must be progressed before Brexit in March 2019.

Get involved in our campaigns

Read our blog to find out more about why it’s so urgent that animals continue to be recognised as sentient after Brexit.

Keep up to date with our campaigning work, including our call to make sure that animal sentience continues to be recognised after Brexit, by signing up for our campaigns newsletter.

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