We are a nation of animal lovers, and animal welfare has been a priority for the Government since 2010. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs published the Action Plan for Animal Welfare in May 2021, which set out a series of future reforms for this Parliament and beyond.
Since leaving the EU, the UK has had the opportunity to go further by making sure that animal sentience is fully considered in policy. The Government’s Animal Welfare (Sentience) Act, which completed its parliamentary passage into law in April 2022, recognises that vertebrates, decapod crustaceans and cephalopod molluscs are sentient, delivering a key manifesto commitment.
Through the Act, an Animal Sentience Committee is established, which will advise the Government on how policy decisions should take account of animal welfare. The Committee’s membership provides expertise from both veterinary and social science and covers farm, companion, and wild animals.
Finally, the Act also gives the Secretary of State the power to extend the recognition of sentience to particular invertebrates in future on the basis of evidence. Crabs, octopus and lobsters, as well as all other decapod crustaceans and cephalopod molluscs, have been recognised as sentient beings in the Act. A Government-commissioned review by the London School of Economics and Political Science concluded that there was strong evidence that decapod crustaceans and cephalopod molluscs are sentient.