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By November 30, 2017 0 Comments Read More →

Animal Sentience Denied Then Reaffirmed

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Under EU law animals are recognised as feeling both pain and emotion – generally referred to as sentience. However, with EU law now about to be transferred into UK law, a recent attempt was made in parliament to transfer the appropriate protocol in order to guarantee continued recognition of this fact, but sadly it was rejected by a majority of 18 votes – 313 voting against and 295 for. I’m pretty sure that anyone who has ever dealt with animals of any kind is aware that they exhibit a wide range of different responses, from joy and fear to fondness and even a sense of loss, and anyone who has accidentally trodden on a dog’s tail is unlikely to forget the horrendous shriek it elicits – all not dissimilar to the way a typical human reacts, in fact. The general fear from most charities and animal welfare groups is that this backwards step will make it easier to reduce our animal welfare standards in an attempt to court future trade, and the government’s suggestion that the Animal Welfare Act 2006 provides ample protection falls well short of assuring them. The original acknowledgement of animals as sentient beings was the springboard for many improvements in our welfare standards and it is a matter of great shame that a majority of our elected MPs might think otherwise.

Fortunately the overwhelming view in the UK in 2017 seems to be that those 313 MPs are now seriously out of touch, and it was reassuring to see the criticism the vote provoked from the farming community and all other relevant groups.

This led to a swift reassurance from the Environment Minister, Michael Gove, that animal sentience will continue to be recognised and protection strengthened. He rejected suggestions that the vote was in any way a rejection of animal sentience, suggesting instead that the bill was flawed, and pointing out quite correctly that many EU countries were lagging badly behind in their own welfare standards. He also referred to proposals to increase sentences for people found guilty of cruelty to animals and plans to install CCTV in all slaughterhouses, while suggesting that restrictions or a ban on the live export of animals for slaughter would only be possible once we have left the EU. Gove’s reassurances were welcomed by the Humane Society UK (HSI), although both the HSI and the RSPCA argue that nothing short of officially recognising animal sentience can provide appropriate protection in the case of new laws, and in the case of animals in the wild and those used in experimentation. Protections granted in law can always be removed but an official recognition of animal sentience would make this much more difficult for any government to do.

Posted in: News Just in

About the Author:

Paul Melnyczuk is editor of Home Farmer, and together with Ruth Tott is the founder of the company. His Ukrainian father and Austrian mother came over in the 1950s, and he was raised near Accrington (of Stanley fame) in Lancashire. With a degree in European Literature and a year spent living in Sweden, and a further 2 years in the Sudan, his background is rich and varied.

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