Over the past weeks many constituents have contacted me with concerns regarding animal welfare, both the recognition of animals as sentient beings and the need to increase animal abusers’ sentences. There has never been an argument about the principle of animal sentience, I nor any other MP believes that animals do not have feelings. Although the Withdrawal Bill was not the right place to address this issue, it is absolutely necessary to legislate for animal sentience. Which is why I am delighted that the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has published a bill setting out a new law to ensure animal sentience is reflected in domestic law and animal abusers are jailed for up to 5 years.
This announcement is fantastic news for animal welfare. It will strengthen current UK law, going much further than current EU law. 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”. Furthermore, the draft bill would increase the maximum prison sentence for animal cruelty tenfold, from six months to five years, in England and Wales. Subject to consultation on the draft bill, the government will legislate to deliver both aims.
As we have seen locally, horrific attacks on animals do occur and it is great news that those who commit such horrendous acts of animal cruelty will face the increased sentence of five years in jail. The move has been strongly welcomed by animal welfare groups such as the RSCPA and follows dedicated campaigning from Battersea Dogs & Cats Home.
These plans underline the government’s commitment to raising animal welfare standards, ensuring there will be enhanced protections for animals as we leave the EU. Indeed, the draft Bill is part of a wider programme of reform to cement the UK’s position as a global leader on animal welfare. Earlier in the year, the government announced plans to make CCTV mandatory in all slaughterhouses and has committed to taking steps to control the export of live farm animals for slaughter as we leave the EU.