The Conservative-DUP alliance has managed to scrap a crucial EU law, putting untold numbers of animals at risk

The Conservative-DUP coalition vote against the inclusion of animal sentience in law
Support us and go ad-free

After a debate in parliament, MPs decided that ‘animal sentience’ will not be included in the EU Withdrawal Bill. Every single Conservative and DUP MP present voted to reject inclusion of the term, which recognises that animals are capable of feeling pain and emotion. All MPs from the Labour, Green and SNP parties voted to include it. 

This vote could jeopardise efforts to protect animals. One of the arguments the government used to justify voting in this way was that sentience is already covered in the Animal Welfare Act. But many say this just isn’t true.

A step in the wrong direction

Environment Secretary Michael Gove pledged that Brexit could enhance animal welfare standards. But this vote on animal sentience undermines Gove’s promise, according to the RSPCA.

The government is picking and choosing which EU laws are made into UK law following Brexit. Green MP Caroline Lucas proposed an amendment that would ensure animal sentience is carried over. But 313 MPs voted against recognising animals as sentient beings.

If the law doesn’t recognise animals as sentient, as capable of feeling pain and emotion, then this could weaken our obligation to consider their welfare. For example, after the EU included animal sentience in the Lisbon Treaty, it banned animal testing for cosmetic purposes.

David Bowles, Head of Public Affairs at RSPCA, said this is a “truly backward step” for the protection of animals.


The RSPCA says the term ‘sentience’ does not appear once in the Animal Welfare Act. But MPs argued the act covered it. Bowles added:

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

only domestic animals are really covered by the provsions of the Act anyway and animals in the wild and laboratories are expressly exempt. It is simply wrong for the Government to claim that the Act protects animal sentience.

Both the RSPCA and Lucas said the decision was “disappointing”. Lucas also highlighted during the debate:

By way of background, in 1997—20 years ago—the UK Government, during their presidency of the EU, convinced the then 14 other member states that EU law should explicitly recognise that animals were sentient beings, and not simply agricultural goods like bags of potatoes that could be maltreated with impunity.

It was important enough for the British Government to use all their influence in the EU to have it included in the Lisbon treaty, and we should continue to have it in UK law.

This puts animals in danger

As previously reported at The Canary, Brexit has offered hope for raising animal welfare standards, as well as fears about lowering them. But by keeping animal sentience out of British law, the government could be putting untold numbers of animals at risk of exploitation and abuse. Animals are still suffering on factory farms, in the wild, in labs, in circuses, in sport and in zoos. If we want to ensure that animals are afforded the protections they deserve, then the law has to recognise their sentience.

Get Involved!

– Check out more articles from The Canary on animal rights.

Join us, so we can keep holding the powerful to account.

Featured image via Pixabay

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us

Comments are closed