Constituents have written to me about animal sentience.
I believe animals are sentient beings who can feel pain and suffering, indeed this is something I have raised at Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) and I would like to reassure you that strong action is being taken to reduce their risk of harm.
The Government is committed to making any necessary changes to UK law in a rigorous and comprehensive way to ensure animal sentience is legally recognised once the UK leaves the EU. This also includes ensuring the UK has an effective means of making sure that animal sentience is reflected in future policy decisions. I understand that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is currently engaging closely with relevant organisations and authorities to enhance its policies on this issue further; the Secretary of State recently met leading members of the #BetterDealForAnimals campaign to discuss this important matter.
Encouraging action is being taken to improve animal welfare at home and abroad by increasing maximum sentences for animal cruelty, banning third party sales of puppies, and introducing one of the world’s toughest bans on ivory sales. I believe these very welcome steps demonstrate exactly how seriously this Government takes animal welfare.
Once we have left the EU, we could do even more. The UK’s current position of full harmonisation with EU rules on pet travel means the import of puppies under 6 months cannot be banned, and cracking down on puppy smuggling is a challenge because of the difficulty in accurately identifying underage puppies at the border. EU rules also restrict our ability to control live animal exports.
We are a nation of animal lovers and I am pleased with the commitments to make Brexit work not just for citizens, but for the animals we love and cherish too.
My question at PMQs was as follows:
"Will the Prime Minister reassure people that this Conservative Government are committed to maintaining the United Kingdom’s strong commitment to the highest standards of animal welfare, both now and post-Brexit?"
Theresa May, the Prime Minister replied:
"I am happy to give my hon. Friend that commitment. As she and others will know, we already have some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world, and as we leave the EU, we should not only maintain, but enhance them. We have already set out our proposals to introduce mandatory CCTV in slaughterhouses; to increase sentences for animal cruelty to five years; to ban microbeads, which damage marine life; and to ban the ivory trade to help bring an end to elephant poaching. We also recognise and respect the fact that animals are sentient beings and should be treated accordingly. The Animal Welfare Act 2006 provides protection for all animals capable of experiencing pain or suffering which are under the control of man. But I reaffirm to her that we will be ensuring that we maintain and enhance our animal welfare standards when we leave the EU."