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A Step Closer to Re-establishing Animal Sentience in UK Law

News Section Icon Published 19/01/2022

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Yesterday (18th January), MPs debated the issue of animal sentience, when the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill had its Second Reading. If the Bill becomes law, it will ensure that animals are legally recognised as sentient, thinking beings and require the UK Government to consider the welfare needs of animals as sentient beings when making and implementing policies.

Strong support

The Second Reading received cross-party support from several MPs who supported the Government’s legislation, including, Deidre Brock, Louis French, Neil Hudson, Jim McMahon, Tracey Crouch and Tim Farron. This followed action from thousands of you, our steadfast supporters, who emailed your MPs asking them to get behind the Bill.

During the debate, Kerry McCarthy MP said: “I thank the campaigners and members of the public who have emailed MPs, signed petitions and kept pressing, because that is why the Government have finally produced this Bill.”

“If we truly respect animals, we must do a lot more than just pay lip service to sentience: we must end the exploitation and abuse of animals on factory farms; stop treating animals as commodities;…[and] halt and reverse the devastating damage that we have done to the natural world.”

Caroline Lucas MP also praised the Better Deal for Animals coalition, of which we are a member, adding: “I warmly welcome this Bill. I congratulate the A Better Deal for Animals coalition for the work it has put into it.”

Ending this injustice

“Over 12,000 Compassion supporters took action to ensure that there will be no loss of legal protections for animals following the UK’s departure from the EU,” said Sarah Moyes, our Senior Campaigns Manager. “It’s completely crazy that UK law doesn't currently recognise that animals are able to feel joy, and fear and are able to think, and learn. But, thanks to you, we are moving ever closer to changing this.”

We will continue campaigning until sentient beings are granted the legal recognition they undeniably deserve.”

What's next?

“It has now been a year since the UK left the EU, when UK law ceased to require Government Ministers to pay full regard to animal sentience when developing policy,” said James West, our Senior Policy Manger. “Yesterday’s Second Reading was the next step along the path to re-establishing the principle of animal sentience in law.”

The Bill will now go onto the Committee stage, where a smaller group of MPs will consider the issue in more detail, including tabling and voting on amendments. This will end by 10th February and be followed by Report stage, where all MPs can consider the Bill as amended by Committee and propose further amendments.

If no amendments are made to the Bill since it was sent to the Commons from the Lords, it will become law. If amendments are made by MPs, then it will go back to the Lords for them to reconsider.  

James continued: “Once the Bill has passed all the necessary stages, it will require government, when formulating and implementing policy, to pay ‘all due regard’ to the fact that animals are sentient beings. Therefore, it’s crucial that MPs support its progress, and that animal sentience is once again officially recognised in UK law.”


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