Response from Sir Peter Bottomley

November 2017

Animal Sentience

Some concerned constituents have contacted me about the status of animals as living beings regarding the European (Withdrawal) Bill.

It is not clear to me why any campaign thought we would betray animals, having persuaded other EU countries to see them as we have.

Let us be absolutely clear: the UK government has publicly stated the self-evident fact that animals are living, sentient beings.

We can be proud that the UK was the first country in the world to implement laws protecting animals. I was the second MP to sign the EDM for mandatory CCTV installation in slaughterhouses. This Government plans to increase maximum animal cruelty sentencing to 5 years’ imprisonment.

I share the Conservatives' commitment to the highest standards of animal welfare.

I conclude by reproducing the Green Party of England and Wales MP Caroline Lucas’ words during the debate:

‘…I am hopeful of finding support across the House for new clause 30, on animal sentience, because I do not think it should be controversial.

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. In other words, it was a recognition that, like us, animals are aware of their surroundings; that they have the capacity to feel pain, hunger, heat and cold; and that they are aware of what is happening to them and of their interaction with other animals, including humans.

The resulting protocol, which came into force in 1999, changed how animals were regarded and ensured that future EU legislation was not implemented on the basis of the lowest standards of animal welfare, but that it took animal sentience into account. That understanding has since informed more than 20 pieces of EU law on animal welfare, including the ban on sealskin imports, the ban on conventional battery cages and the ban on cosmetics testing on animals.

In 2009, the original protocol was incorporated into the Lisbon treaty as article 13 of title II. The Government have rightly and commendably committed to transferring all existing EU law on animal welfare into UK law under the Bill, but because the text of the Lisbon treaty is not transferred by the Bill, the wording of article 13 on animal sentience will not explicitly be incorporated into UK law. As things stand, despite having one of the longest-standing animal welfare laws in the world—something of which we are rightly proud—the UK has no legal instrument other than article 13 of the Lisbon treaty to provide that animals are sentient beings.’

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.