The government has published a draft animal welfare bill that it says will ensure there will be enhanced protections for animals as Britain leaves the EU.
The draft bill sets out that the government “must have regard to the welfare needs of animals as sentient beings in formulating and implementing government policy”. It follows criticism from campaign groups that the EU (Withdrawal) Bill would not have adopted this principle, leaving open the possibility that animals would no longer be regarded as sentient beings under UK law.
If adopted, the draft bill would also increase the maximum prison sentence for animal cruelty tenfold, from six months to five years, in England and Wales.
Compassion in World Farming welcomed the fact that legal recognition of animal sentience will now be permanently incorporated into British law post-Brexit.
“The duty on government to pay regard to the fact that animals are sentient beings when formulating and implementing policy is an important legal principle and we welcome the announcement that this will continue to be a cornerstone of our animal welfare laws as we leave the EU,” said Compassion’s director of campaigns Emma Slawinski.
The government said its draft bill was part of a wider programme of reform to cement the UK’s position as a global leader on animal welfare. Earlier in the year, it announced plans to make CCTV mandatory in all slaughterhouses and it has committed to taking steps to control the export of live farm animals for slaughter as Britain leaves the EU.