Animals’ status as sentient beings

A number of constituents have contacted me recently about the need to protect animals’ status as sentient beings.

First and foremost, I am totally and utterly committed to all attempts to improve animal welfare. There are few things that upset me more than needless cruelty to animals, I simply can’t stand it. As a newly elected MP you may recall I came out very strongly and very publicly against fox hunting. Some might have thought this electoral suicide in a predominantly rural constituency, but I wanted to leave my constituents in absolutely no doubt as to where I stood on this. My position on animal welfare will never, ever, alter or be reduced. I find that people who are cruel to animals are typically not very nice human beings.

So the confusion over the amendment to the Great Repeal Bill and the twisted presentation by the media hurts me deeply because it brings into question the kind of person I am and the standards I hold dear.

I want to make it absolutely clear that I and my colleagues did not vote to conclude that animals cannot feel pain. In fact, we believe and have stated the exact opposite. If you watched the debate you will have seen the Minster stating explicitly, “Animals will continue to be recognised as sentient under domestic law.”

Moreover, when asked to confirm whether Article 13 of the Lisbon Treaty which categorises animals as sentient beings, will be part of the Great Repeal Bill on 20 July 2017, the Secretary of State responded:

“Absolutely. Before we entered the European Union, we recognised in our own legislation that animals were sentient beings…It is an absolutely vital commitment that we have to ensure that all creation is maintained, enhanced and protected.”

Article 13 of the Lisbon Treaty also references the Animal Protection Index which is maintained by World Animal Protection. This Index rates the UK’s formal recognition of animal sentience as grade A, compared with other countries such as France, Italy and Spain who are listed as grade C.

I am sure you will also be aware that there are already several legislative instruments in the UK covering animal welfare. Many of these already cover what is held in EU law. For example, the Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2007 and the Welfare of Animals (Transport) (England) Order 2006 BOTH contain measures which recognise sentience. So we already have legislation which demands that no unnecessary suffering or pain should be inflicted upon animals. This legislation will continue to be in force upon our exit from the EU.

The Secretary of State has written to MPs to reiterate this, so I have attached below the letter for your information.

As an animal lover, I hope you would know that I could not, in all good conscience have voted in any way to lessen the current protections we have in place for animal welfare. I wouldn’t be able to look at myself in the mirror if I did.

I trust this explains the truth of the situation.