The recognition of animal sentience has been omitted from the Withdrawal bill. Tom Kuehnel discusses what this will mean for animals, and what you can do to help.
Following the UK’s decision to withdraw from the European Union in last year’s referendum, it has been decided that all European legislation will be reinstated as UK law. The process through which this will happen is dictated by the European (Withdrawal) bill, although you might know it by the grandiose sounding moniker: ‘Great Repeal Bill’.
The EU has provided us with 80% of our animal welfare legislation, but not everything will automatically be enshrined into domestic law. Arguably the most troubling omission, certainly from the animals’ point of view, is the exclusion of article 13 of the Lisbon Treaty, an article which recognises animal sentience. This essentially means that government doesn’t have to pay any regard to an animal’s welfare, or grant them any rights.
Of course this legislation is often used to improve the conditions of farmed animals, and does little to liberate these animals from farms and their inevitable fate at the slaughterhouse, but at least it gives animal advocates something to work on. Who knows what this law will give way to in the future, but at the very least we should recognise animal sentience, something so fundamental which we can use to build rights and other recognitions on top of in the future.
Conservative MP and Officer for our APPG on Vegetarianism and Veganism, Henry Smith, sought assurance from The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Michael Gove, back in July that article 13 will be included in the repeal bill, with Michael Gove affirming: “Absolutely. Before we entered the European Union, we recognised in our own legislation that animals were sentient beings. I am an animal; we are all animals, and therefore I care—[Interruption.] I am predominantly herbivorous, I should add. It is an absolutely vital commitment that we have to ensure that all creation is maintained, enhanced and protected.”
Compassion in World Farming was instrumental in securing the recognition of animals as sentient beings into the 2009 Lisbon Treaty. They are encouraging supporters to sign their petition, calling on Michael Gove to take urgent action
You can also email your MP today to put pressure on Michael Gove and the Government to uphold article 13 of the Lisbon Treaty and ensure that animals do not lose what little protection they currently have.
By Tom Kuehnel
Campaigns and Policy Officer
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