Vertebrate animals will be recognised as sentient beings for the first time in UK law thanks to the introduction of the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill, which was introduced in Parliament yesterday (May 13).
The legislation will also ensure that animal sentience is taken into account when developing policy across Government through the creation of a Animal Sentience Committee, which will be made up of animal experts from within the field.
By enshrining sentience in domestic law in this way, any new legislation will have to take into account the fact that animals can experience feelings such as pain or joy.
The Bill will underpin the Government’s Action Plan for Animal Welfare, which sets out the government’s plans to improve standards and eradicate cruel practices for animals both domestically and internationally.
Animal Welfare minister Lord Goldsmith said: “The UK has always led the way on animal welfare and now that we’ve left the EU we are free to drive for the highest standards of animal welfare anywhere in the world.
“Formally recognising in law that animals are sentient and experience feelings in the same way humans do is just the first step in our flagship Action Plan for Animal Welfare which will further transform the lives of animals in this country and strengthen our position as a global leader.”