The Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, set out plans on Tuesday to strengthen animal welfare laws and enshrine animal sentience in domestic UK law.
The new draft Bill will mean:
- Recognising and enshrining animal sentience in domestic UK law
- Increasing the maximum prison sentence for animal cruelty tenfold, from six months to five years
- Retaining the ability of the courts to hand out unlimited fines and ban offenders from owning animals in future
This announcement is part of a wider set of reforms which aim to cement the UK’s position as a global leader on animal welfare.
Richard said, ‘As we leave the EU, we will have new opportunities to improve animal welfare in the UK. This Bill is just the start. We are reviewing the practice of exporting live animals for slaughter and we will take action to restrict and, if possible, end this trade. We are also looking at how we can ensure food imports meet the highest welfare standards and we will take action to deal with puppy farming and the cruel trade in pets reared in unacceptable conditions.’
‘As we leave the EU, we are committed to delivering a Green Brexit, not only maintaining but enhancing animal welfare standards. Far from denying that animals are sentient beings who feel pain and suffering, we are enshrining that principle into UK law and ensuring we do everything we can to protect their welfare.’
Richard Benyon also denies that an Opposition amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill, due to be debated on the same day, would achieve this.
‘This proposed amendment was faulty. It was supposed to provide recognition of animal sentience but would mean that animal sentience would only be recognised in law for the next two years and would only apply to Ministerial decisions made in that period.
‘Conservatives believe that animals are sentient for life not just for the next two years. We want to do much better and to make sure that this principle is embedded more clearly than ever before in UK law. I hope that everyone who really cares about animal welfare will look very carefully at the new measures proposed by the Government.’
Since the election, Conservatives in Government have been actively working to improve animal welfare. Action has been taken to ban the plastic microbeads which do so much damage to marine wildlife and new laws come into force in January. CCTV will be made mandatory in abattoirs to ensure animals are not abused or mistreated at the end of their lives. The trade in ivory is being banned which puts the lives of African elephants in danger. And the sentence for the worst acts of animal cruelty is being increased to five years imprisonment which will ensure the sanctions for cruelty towards animals are as strong here as anywhere in the world.