Government’s Position On Animal Sentience Following Brexit

Yesterday the Government announced the new legislation to be set in place for animal welfare after Britain leaves the EU. In September there was the understanding that MPs had voted that animals were not sentient beings and the Government faced significant backlash from concerned activists and animal welfare charities. The draft bill released to the public yesterday outlines two of the main points including the maximum sentence for animal cruelty and the welfare of animals under UK law.

A statement from Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “This draft Bill will embed the principle that animals are sentient beings, capable of feeling pain and pleasure, more clearly than ever before in domestic law. There was never any question that our policies on animal welfare are driven by the fact that animals are sentient beings, and I am keen to reinforce this in legislation as we leave the EU.”

The maximum sentence on animal cruelty currently stands at 6 months, with it set to increase to five years with the introduction of the new Bill. At the end of September, Scotland was in talks of hoping to raise the sentence from 12 months to five years. This new legislation for animal cruelty sentences would bring England and Scotland in line with Northern Ireland, the Irish Republic, Canada and Australia.

Animals’ being recognised as sentient beings is a step forward in the fight for improved animal welfare, with the new bill including prosecution for illegal tail docking, and the maximum penalties applying to attacks on service animals, including guide dogs, police and military dogs.

As a nation described as ‘animal lovers’, what’s your opinion on the latest news from the Government? Should more have been done whilst the UK was a member of the EU, going beyond the mandatory laws set by the EU? You have the opportunity to have your say here before 31 Jan 2018.


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