The Tories have voted against the inclusion of animal sentience in the EU Withdrawal Bill, suggesting that they don’t believe that animals can feel pain or emotions. This is a devastating blow to animal’s rights campaigners and animal lovers around the UK and many, quite rightly, feel that this is a step backwards for animal welfare.
The Independent said that this marked the ‘beginning of our anti-science Brexit’. There is ample evidence that animals do have emotions and do feel pain. Clearly the Tory party members who believe animals are not sentient — because that is what they are effectively saying — have never seen footage of a slaughter house.
The MPs vote was concerned with whether or not animal sentience should be included in the EU Withdrawal Bill — which will repeal all EU laws and legislation which, as things stand, govern activities in the UK.
As part of Brexit, all existing EU legislation will either be amended, repealed or improved as part of Brexit. An astonishing 80 per cent of animal welfare legislation comes from the EU, but after March 2019 these will no longer apply.
In response to outcry, the government have said that animal sentience is covered by the Animal Welfare Act 2006. Unfortunately only domestic animals are covered by the Animal Welfare Act and therefore animals in the wild and in laboratories are exempt. Basically, unless the animal is ‘domesticated’, they will not be covered by the Animal Welfare Act.
That means, potentially cruel activities such as fox hunting and badger culling could become everyday realities in the UK again.
How will the government ensure that we don’t go backwards from here? Michael Gove, Environment Secretary, said earlier this year that he would prioritise animal rights during Brexit negotiations, a promise that he has, unsurprisingly, broken.
Talking about the move towards mandatory CCTV in slaughterhouses across England, Gove said: “I made it perfectly clear, and indeed this is something on which all members of the Government are agreed, that we are not going to dilute our high animal welfare standards or our high environmental standards in pursuit of any trade deal.”
Compassion in World Farming Head of Policy Nick Palmer said: “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?”
It is a terrifying thought for the future. UK law needs to acknowledge that all animals are deserving of respect and all animals can feel love, hope, fear, pain and sadness.
Writing for The Independent, Yas Necati said: “Voting the recognition of animal sentience out of UK legislation is a pretty big deal, but it’s barely been reported on in mainstream news outlets.
“As each EU law is put to the vote, I wonder how many more will be scrapped without being brought to the public’s attention.”
Brexit negotiations will continue until the 29th March 2019 at 11PM at which time we will be officially out of the European Union.