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Big win for UK animals

News Section Icon Published 14/05/2021

Animal sentience to be recognised in UK law

Yesterday (13th May), the Government introduced the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill in Parliament.

“We warmly welcome the publication of legislation that recognises animals as sentient beings – capable of experiencing joy, pain and suffering,” said James West, our Senior Policy Manager.

“Compassion’s one million signature petition on this issue in the 1990s led to what has become a cornerstone of animal welfare law in the EU. We applaud this initiative that will apply to policies being developed across all UK Government departments.”

Undisputable science: Animals can suffer and feel pain

Science tells us that animals are thinking, feeling beings. No one who has seen a cow going outside for the first time after a winter indoors, a hen dust bathing, or a pig wallowing in a fresh patch of mud would disagree with that, which is why we are delighted this Bill has been introduced.

The Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill – which forms part of the Government’s new Action Plan for Animal Welfare, announced earlier this week (12th May) - will:

  • Formally recognise animals as sentient beings in domestic law
  • Establish an Animal Sentience Committee (ASC) to ensure policy formation and implementation, across all government departments, considers animal sentience
  • Require Ministers to respond to reports from the ASC through laying a statement in Parliament, ensuring that they remain politically accountable

The ASC will be essential in ensuring that this new law has the impact we all hope it will do. The Committee must be independent, with expert representation from across the animal welfare sector. The role of Chair of the Committee is also crucial and so we eagerly anticipate the further guidance that will be provided by Government to the Committee and the membership of this new body.

A historic moment

Securing the status of animals as sentient beings, in 1997, was a massive step forward for EU law, helped by Compassion winning a 10-year campaign to have animal sentience legally recognised. However, this recognition was lost post-Brexit. We are therefore delighted that this new legislation will replace the equivalent EU law that no longer applies in Britain.

“We look forward to the newly established Committee being effective in ensuring that Ministers pay all due regard to animal sentience when formulating and implementing policy,” James continued. “As a nation of animal lovers, we should not expect anything less than granting sentient beings the legal recognition they unequivocally deserve.”

Take action

Ask your MP to support the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill and help ensure its intentions are honoured in all government policy.


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