First and foremost, I believe animals are sentient beings who can feel pain and suffering, and I would like to reassure you that strong action is being taken to reduce their risk of harm.
I am proud that the UK has consistently led the way on animal welfare. It was one of the key EU members that lobbied for the recognition of animal sentience in Article 13 of the Lisbon Treaty in 2009 and, in addition, recognised in law that animals can feel pain and suffering through the Animal Welfare Act.
Now that the UK has left the EU, I am pleased that this country has the opportunity to go further to promote animal welfare by making sure that all Government departments consider animal sentience in policy, covering all vertebrate animals from farm to forest. The Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill, which has now been introduced to Parliament, enshrines the recognition that animals are sentient in domestic law. It also creates a proportionate accountability mechanism to help reassure that central government policymaking takes this into account.
I am encouraged that this Bill will create an Animal Sentience Committee with experts which will produce reports on how well policy decisions have paid all due regard to the welfare of animals. The relevant Minister must then respond to reports via statements to Parliament. From now on, Ministers will need to be ready to show that the needs of animals have been considered in relevant policy decisions. This much awaited reform applies to all policy areas and to all stages of Government policy making and implementation which is not explicitly devolved. This means it covers England and policy areas that affect the whole of the UK, for example, military policy.
I am pleased that these reforms will also underpin the Government’s Action Plan for Animal Welfare, which contains upwards of forty valuable reforms. I know that this Government is committed to maintaining the very highest standards of animal welfare and I am delighted that this piece of legislation has now been introduced.