Animal sentience ‘will continue to be recognised post-Brexit’, says Gove

The sentience of animals will be recognised post-Brexit, says Gove. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/MOODBOARD

The sentience of animals will be recognised post-Brexit, says Gove. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/MOODBOARD - Credit: Getty Images/moodboard RF

The sentience of animals will continue to be recognised and protections strengthened when Britain leaves the EU, the government says.

In a written ministerial statement, environment secretary Michael Gove said the government was committed to “the very highest standards” of animal welfare, and the UK would be a “world leader” in the care and protection of animals.

“It has been suggested that the vote last week on New Clause 30 of the EU Withdrawal Bill somehow signalled a weakening in the protection of animals - that is wrong. Voting against the amendment was not a vote against the idea that animals are sentient and feel pain - that is a misconception,” he said.

Instead, the vote against the clause was the rejection of a “faulty” amendment, which would not have achieved its stated aims of providing appropriate protection for animals, he said, and the government was looking for “the right legislative vehicle” to address the issue.

“We are acting energetically to reduce the risk of harm to animals – whether on farms or in the wild,” he said.


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“This government will ensure that any necessary changes required to UK law are made in a rigorous and comprehensive way to ensure animal sentience is recognised after we leave the EU. The Withdrawal Bill is not the right place to address this, however we are considering the right legislative vehicle.”

The government is proposing primary legislation to increase maximum sentences for animal cruelty from six months to five years, and the creation of a new statutory, independent body to uphold environmental standards, as the current EU instrument – Article 13 – had “not delivered the progress we want to see”, he said.

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“In practice its effect is very unclear and it has failed to prevent practices across the EU which are cruel and painful to animals,” he said.

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