New Zealand has adopted a new amendment in its legislation recognising animals as “sentient” beings. The law requires owners of animals and people in charge of animals “to attend properly to the welfare of those animals”. In addition, the law bans animal testing in cosmetics. This is a huge step forward for animal welfare.
Our Head of Research, Dr Angela Wright, says: “This is fantastic news for New Zealand’s animals. We are hopeful that this monumental ruling will pave the way to a better life for farm animals.”
What is animal sentience?
Sentient animals are aware of their feelings and emotions. These could be negative feelings such as pain, frustration and fear. Animals can also enjoy feelings of comfort, contentment, and even joy.
John Webster, Professor Emeritus, University of Bristol said: “A sentient animal is one for whom feelings matter.”
The fight for recognising animal sentience
In 1997, animals were legally recognised as sentient beings (capable of feeling pain and discomfort) by the EU, following a ten-year campaign by Compassion in World Farming.
What does this mean?
If animals are sentient, they should be respected and be free to live a life free from suffering. Factory farming denies animals the chance to perform their natural behaviours. In battery cages, hens can’t even stretch their wings.
It’s important that changes in the law are more than symbolic. It’s a start but to achieve real progress, we have to make sure there are positive consequences for animals.