There has been a lot of misinformation spread about this specific matter, so I would like to clarify a few facts.
First of all, there was not a debate or vote on the principle of whether animals have feelings. I am proud that the UK has some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world and, as part of this, the principle of animal sentience is already enshrined in our own laws, as you will find in s.1(4) and s.4(1)(a-d) of the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
The EU (Withdrawal) Bill will convert the existing body of direct EU animal welfare laws to become UK laws. Most of these EU laws relate to farmed animals and many were passed after Article 13 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union came into effect.
We should not be looking towards the EU as a benchmark for animal welfare standards. EU law currently permits bullfighting, foie grois production, fur importation and the transportation of live animals in horrendous conditions. The Animal Protection Index, maintained by World Animal Protection, rates the UK's formal recognition of animal sentience as grade A. Other EU countries such as France, Italy and Spain are graded C.
Already, this Government is showing its commitment to animal welfare with policies such as compulsory CCTV in abattoirs, banning microbeads, five year sentences for animal cruelty, and the banning of ivory in the UK.
On a personal note, as a vegetarian of over 35 years and someone who has consistently raised issues surrounding animal welfare standards, I would invite anyone to look at my Parliamentary history on this issue, which I believe speaks for itself.
Offord released his statement after much adverse publicity for Conservative MP's following a recent vote that animals are not sentient beings.
Just when I think can't possibly loathe this disgusting Tory government any more they go and sink even lower #AnimalSentience #ToriesOut #Noconfidence pic.twitter.com/xxyuKeRsHn— Isca Saboteur (@IscaSaboteur) November 21, 2017
Amazing to see so many animal lovers taking action in support of my animal sentience amendment. 🐥🐓🦆🐎🐖— Caroline Lucas (@CarolineLucas) November 23, 2017
This @michaelgove statement is silly. If the EU Withdrawal Bill isn't the right place to transfer EU law into UK law, then what is? https://t.co/7bHiDSLtZh
Please support this petition to repeal the decision to omit animal sentience from the EU Withdrawal Bill https://t.co/5giszNAXRb You can also write to @MichaelGove https://t.co/YXFQDP9NhW, let him know that this decision is a disaster for animal rights. pic.twitter.com/vz3CMYQPE9— The Vegan Society (@TheVeganSociety) November 21, 2017
Personally I find Mr Offord's statement rather misleading. He says little on the subject beyond "I'm a veggie so I am Ok". Without wishing to sink to the usual banal comment that is thrown at such times, we all know cases of famous politicians who were vegetarians who were most definitely not OK.
I personally believe that animals should be treated with the highest levels of care, compassion and dignity wherever possible. I think we should have a presumption of sentience as there is really not a good reason, other than to allow cruelty and bad practice to do otherwise. I am upset with Offord as I had previously thought he was sound on compassion towards animals. He may say "look at my record". The sad truth is that we looked at how he voted in this case. If you care about animal welfare, then you really shouldn't be surprised that the party of foxhunting are keen to legislate in this manner.
There is a petition online to try and get the Tories to change their policy. Here is the text
If you want to sign this petitions, the link is here.
UPDATE: Michael Gove has promised to make “any necessary changes” to UK law to recognize that animals can feel pain, however we can't trust that we will get the animal rights that this country wants until something is in law. We need to keep up the pressure on the Government to ensure animal sentience is put into law.
(meaning they are beings that feel pain). This law is there to protect the welfare of animals. MP Caroline Lucas had submitted an amendment clause (NC30) to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, which sought to transfer the EU Protocol on animal sentience into UK law, so animals continue to be recognised as sentient beings under domestic law.
Not allowing this amendment could see animal welfare go backwards instead of forwards
It flies in the face of commonly held scientific belief that animals do feel pain and have emotions.
This is not a matter of left or right wing politics it's about protecting animal rights and coming together to ensure that animals maintain sentient status in UK law, to protect animal welfare. As Ben Fogle said "dogs are much smarter and more emotional than politicians believe them to be."
. Regardless of what has been claimed about how good our animal laws are we are ranked the 7th highest animal testing nation. "There can only be one reason to deny animal sentient status, and that is to exploit them"