The British Veterinary Association (BVA) is calling on the Government to ensure that animal sentience legislation is enshrined in law before the UK leaves the EU.
The call comes as the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has today responded to the Efra Committee’s Pre-Legislative Scrutiny of the draft Animal Welfare (Sentencing and Recognition of Sentience) Bill 2017.
The committee’s report had called for revisions to the Bill and recommended that clause 1 covering animal sentience should be removed and replaced with a new Animal Sentience Bill. Defra has responded to say that it is actively looking at drafting solutions which will directly address the Committee’s concerns and improve clarity, and will set out more details about how the measures in the draft bill will be taken forward in due course.
The draft Bill was introduced in response to the campaign for Article 13 of the Lisbon Treaty to be included in the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, which would recognise the sentience of animals and impose a duty on the state to have regard for animal welfare when developing and implementing policy.
Commenting, BVA President John Fishwick said: “Rather than entirely going back to the drawing board, we would urge the Government to reflect on and refine the existing draft bill so that it can address concerns raised by the Committee’s report. Making wholesale revisions at this stage or making a start on additional legislation would leave this crucial bill at the mercy of the tight legislative timetable and run the risk of missing the boat on embedding the principles by March 2019.
“Our members’ strength of feeling on this issue was made resoundingly clear when over 1,000 vets signed an open letter in support of enshrining the concept of animal sentience in law pre-Brexit. The Government must act swiftly to ensure that the opportunity isn’t missed to uphold the UK’s global reputation for animal welfare.”