In July, the UK Government published the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, which formally enacts Brexit. We were disappointed to learn that the Bill omitted key elements of EU commitment to animal welfare.
Whilst Ministers implied that Brexit would be an opportunity to improve animal welfare in the UK, the EU (Withdrawal) Bill failed to include Article 13 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) - which recognises animals as ‘sentient beings’ and requires Member States to ‘pay full regard’ to animal welfare when formulating policy.
We have since been fighting to retain legal recognition of animals as sentient beings, and are delighted to have won the emphatic support of the Opposition front bench.
Labour’s team has put down amendment 350 to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, which says that any regulation resulting from the bill must “pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals as sentient beings”. The explanatory note to the amendment explains its purpose: to “hold Ministers to the animal welfare standards enshrined in Article 13 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union”.
Two groups of backbenchers have also tabled changes to the Bill which would retain the legal status of animal sentience.
Our policy team met with Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, last month to press the case on this issue, as well as live exports, and we are continuing to campaign as the critical proposals approach a decision.
Since we launched our petition to Michael Gove, calling for Article 13 of the TFEU to be included in UK law after Brexit, over 85,000 of you have spoken out in defence of the legal recognition that animals can suffer, and feel pain and joy. This has been hugely helpful in showing the political parties just how important this matter is.
Time to act
If MPs act now, they can ensure that national policies must pay regard to animal sentience and make it harder for future UK Governments to undermine animal welfare.
Please email your MP and ask them to support amendment 350 and New Clauses 28 and 30 to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill. If Article 13 is left out, a vital safeguard for animals in Britain will be lost.