In December 2017, the government announced that it would be introducing a Bill in Parliament to guarantee the recognition of animal sentience in British law post-Brexit, and to ensure they pay 'regard' to the welfare needs of animals as sentient beings in formulating and implementing government policy.
The draft Bill is in consultation phase and we have submitted recommendations on how it can be strengthened.
A stronger Bill for animal welfare
While we strongly support the aims of the Bill, and welcome its recognition of animals as sentient beings, there are two key areas where it needs to be improved to ensure that animal welfare legislation is not reduced after leaving the EU.
Ensuring ‘full regard’ to the welfare of animals
Current EU legislation requires Member States to pay ‘full regard’ to the welfare requirements of animals when formulating and implementing policy. However, the draft Bill only requires government to have ‘regard’. This weakening of wording would mean a drop in the UK’s animal welfare legislation once we leave the EU. We want to see the Bill amended so that the law remains unchanged post-Brexit.
Widening duty to all public authorities
Present legislation also places a duty on Member States to recognise animals as sentient beings. We believe that this requirement applies not just to central government but to all public bodies such as local councils and executive agencies of government departments.
We are therefore recommending that the draft Bill’s reference to ‘Ministers of the Crown’ (i.e. government ministers in Westminster) is extended to include all public authorities and bodies.
Our Senior Policy Advisor, James West, said: “The government has said that there will be no drop in animal welfare standards when we leave the EU. We need to see our suggested changes reflected in the published Bill to ensure consistent standards post-Brexit.
“Compassion will continue to keep the pressure on the government to help ensure the best possible protection for British animals.”
The consultation remains open until 31st January, at which point the government will review all submissions and make any changes deemed necessary. We urge the government to take our recommendations on board and ensure they are included in the published version of the Bill.