The Vegan Society welcomes and celebrates the Animal Welfare (Sensitivity) Bill passing its final parliamentary stage on April 8, 2022. This monumental moment means that animal sentience will be officially integrated directly into British law once he receives royal assent.
Animal sensitivity has been is part of European Union (EU) law for 25 years and has applied to EU member states, including the UK, since 1997. However, this ceased to apply when the UK left the EU in early 2021. It remained part of EU law as Article 13 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
New UK legislation requires the Secretary of State to set up a committee to review policies and issue reports on whether the UK government has “due regard to how the policy might adversely affect the well-being to be animals as sentient beings”. .”
The committee can also make recommendations on the best way to proceed. However, although the government is obliged to respond to these reports, they are only advisory, nor is there any obligation for the government to prioritize the welfare of animals as human beings. sensitive to other considerations.
The idea of animal sentience—that animals have emotional lives and are capable of having sensations and feelings—is central to veganism as a philosophical belief and ethical practice.
The animals covered by the new law are:
a) any vertebrate other than Homo sapiens
(b) any cephalopod mollusk (such as octopus and squid)
(c) any decapod crustacean (such as crabs and lobsters)
The inclusion of cephalopods and decapods is important because industries that exploit these animals, such as the fishing or seafood industries, operate in the UK.
The inclusion of these animals follows a report published by the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) which found strong evidence sensitivity in both groups.
The Vegan Society’s Campaigns, Policy and Research Manager, Claire Ogley, gives her reaction: “This bill is an important step in the fight for the rights of animals and their legal protection against exploitation. Recognition of animal sentience has supported small improvements to animal welfare legislation, but this does not prevent the widespread suffering inflicted on animals that occurs when they are treated as commodities.
“Animals are thinking, sensitive, social beings, worthy of dignity, compassion and respect. Each animal should be free to pursue its own interests, in appropriate habitats, expressing its natural behaviors, with the minimum necessary intervention. The Vegan Society will continue to fight for a world in which animals are no longer used or exploited.
The Vegan Society believes that truly recognizing the sentience of animals means ending their use and exploitation for food, entertainment, sport and other purposes. While welcoming the formation of the new animal sensitivity committeethe advice issued by the Committee must be followed by the government and legislation must go further to end the exploitation of animals.
Although the bill allows the definition of “animals” in the law to be amended in the future to include other invertebrates, the current approach taken by the government – which is to require conclusive positive evidence of sensitivity – is imperfect, as sensitivity is a subjective experience and can be difficult to prove conclusively. Instead, the Vegan Society thinks we should follow the precautionary principle and assume that animals are susceptible wherever there is significant uncertainty.