By Zoe Fripp
MP’s have voted not to include the clause of animal sentience into the EU withdrawal bill.
Animal sentience was incorporated into EU Law in 2009 with the Lisbon Treaty, and Michael Gove initially promised to prioritise animal rights during the Brexit Campaign. However, the government has now voted to dismiss the clause, justifying this by saying that it is covered by the Animal Welfare Act 2006, which sparked criticism from the RSPCA who explained that the Act only covers domestic animals.
David Bowles, the head of public affairs for the RSPCA, told Farming UK it was “shocking” that parliament has decided to vote in this way.
He said: “In the EU, we know that the recognition of animals as sentient beings has been effective in improving animal welfare across the region.
“Animal sentience is never mentioned in the Animal Welfare Act and, crucially, only domestic animals are really covered by the provisions of the Act anyway 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 Environmental Secretary’s objective of achieving the highest possible animal welfare post-Brexit, it must do the same.”
The vote has been heavily criticised by animal rights activists, such as wildlife photographer Richard Bowler. Mr Bowler wrote a post on his Facebook page condemning the government for not being able to recognise the emotions and pain that animals felt, accompanying it with a picture of a fox, Rosie, who he has become attached to.
“Science is showing more and more animal intelligence and emotions, and yet our government has yet again ignored it. There can only be one reason to deny animal sentient status, and that is to exploit them,” he said.
Nick Palmer, the head of policy at Compassion in World Farming, also urged the government to rethink the bill. He asked the Independent: “How can the UK be seen as a leader in animal welfare when the repeal bill fails to guarantee that animals will continue to be regarded as sentient beings?”
The vote has also sparked a lot of online criticism, with members of the public taking to social media to express their outrage using the hashtag #AnimalSentience.
This vote has such sinister implications. It's a potential gateway to lowering farm animal welfare standards, re-legalising hunting, reintroducing animal testing for cosmetics, and all sorts of barbaric practices that decent humans rightly consider repugnant. #AnimalSentience https://t.co/DGxZc91fsT
— Sarah (@SarahNPhD) November 20, 2017
@michaelgove Did you watch #BluePlanet2 last night? See the whale carrying her dead baby, likely killed by her own contaminated milk from plastic waste? Do you think she was showing emotions? Do you think she has feelings? #AnimalSentience
— Financial Freedom (@Maria_Davies) November 20, 2017
The decision has even inspired a new petition on the change.org website, which has since rapidly spread on social media to repeal the rejection of animal sentience, with public figures and animal rights activists sharing it to their followers such as comedian and actress Sue Perkins and the Captive Animals’ Protection Society.
— Sue Perkins (@sueperkins) November 20, 2017
The petition has already received over 96,000 signatures, with the goal being 150,000. To find out more, you can visit this link.
What do you think about the government’s decision to reject animal sentience? Tweet us how you feel @TridentMediaUK.