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Government must not drop the Sentience Bill

In 2017, hundreds of thousands of people joined us in calling on the British government to ensure that the recognition of animal sentience, and the requirement to pay ‘full regard’ to it, is protected in British law post-Brexit.

In December they responded by producing a draft Bill to guarantee that this important part of British animal welfare standards isn’t dropped as we leave the EU.

A ‘chilling effect’

Having submitted our recommendations on ways to strengthen the draft Bill, we were disappointed to see that today (1st February), a report published by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Commons Select Committee, suggests that the commitment to paying regard to animal sentience should be delayed.

In the report the Committee mentions concerns that having to pay regard to animal welfare might lead to a “chilling effect” - slowing down, or freezing new policy-making.

We believe that the “chilling effect” is entirely desirable. It should not be possible for Ministers to formulate new policy affecting animals without giving full regard to their suffering.

Improvements to ensure animal welfare

There are elements of the Bill that need to be improved, such as ensuring it has the requirement to pay ‘full’ regard to animal sentience, but we believe the government can make those amendments without dropping the entire Bill.

Our Director of Campaigns, Emma Slawinski,said: “The British public have been told numerous times that animal welfare standards will be maintained or improved as we leave the EU. They will be dismayed to hear the suggestion that there is a delay in incorporating the sentience principal into UK law.

“The government must take account of the strength of public support on maintaining this important legal principle post-Brexit. We urge them to proceed with the full Bill."