Big steps for Animal Welfare in the UK
As Mahatma Gandhi famously said: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
We’re supposed to be ‘nation of animal lovers’, so the news, following The Queen’s Speech, that Government plans to introduce new laws protecting and promoting the highest standards of animal welfare is about time!
The Government's proposals announced on May 13th by DEFRA are set out in a flagship Action Plan for Animal Welfare, which will see several new laws coming into effect, transforming the lives of animals in this country.
Legislation will now be underpinned by Environment Secretary George Eustice’s landmark Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill, which formally recognises animals as sentient beings in domestic law.
Supported by an Animal Sentience Committee, animal sentience will be at heart of government policy and all new welfare laws introduced.
To my mind this sentient status is long overdue! It means animals will, at last, be given credit for emotional intelligence, understanding their ability to feel pain, joy and fear in the same way as humans experience emotions.
As we navigate the final stages out of Lockdown, we’ve seen how pets have been our constant companions, our gateway to the outdoors, our stress busters, and a social network not on social media.
With sentient status Government plans to crack down on dog theft that’s risen to epidemic proportions through the pandemic.
Currently as a low risk, high reward crime with pets classified as chattel under the Theft Act 1968, my hope is sentience will bring penalties for dog theft in line with kid-napping.
To me considering animals, as anything less than sentient has for decades caused suffering and heartbreak, with animal cruelty and neglect cases rise year on year.
Legislation been out of touch both with modern science proving animals’ emotional intelligence and with socio-economic factors reinforcing that pets are family.
With ‘sentience’ a legal precedent, I hope that several proposed Bills become legislation expediently like Andrew Rosindell MP’s Jasmines Law to ban ‘no pet’ clauses in rented or leasehold accommodation.
And realise Chris Loder MP’s Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill otherwise known as #FinnsLawPart2, recently passed through Parliament, raising the penalty for animal cruelty and neglect from a pathetic maximum six month sentence to a five year sentence.
In addition to The Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill, the Action Plan for Animal Welfare includes The Kept Animals Bill, and the Animals Abroad Bill, which will prohibit live animal exports, ban importing hunting trophies and ban keeping wild animals as pets.
The Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill gives hope to finally end the callous ‘puppy farming’ trade, recognising several petitions lobbied at Government this year including #BanPuppyImports, combined with Lucy’s Law that became legislation in England last April.
It also raises the prospect of banning fur imports, microchipping all cats, banning ear cropping and calling time on the cruel killing of pigs by gassing them with carbon dioxide.
Could it also see an end to the cruel sport of Greyhound Racing? With the petition #BanGreyhoundRacing set for debate in Parliament imminently, only time will tell.
Guest blog first written for Paaw House