Many constituent have contacted me about protecting animal sentience in UK law. See my position on this matter below.
As a Labour MP, I fully support our policy of accepting animals as sentient beings and enshrining this in law. Labour wants to see an Animal Welfare Commissioner with statutory powers to enforce the welfare requirements in Labour’s 2006 Animal Welfare Act.
The commissioner would be responsible for gathering the latest scientific evidence on animal sentience and welfare, to ensure that there is the most up-to-date, evidence-based understanding across all Government departments, and to ensure that our nation maintains its top ranking in the animal protection index. Working alongside Government, the commissioner would assist in the promotion of best practice in animal welfare internationally.
I am also opposed to farm animals being kept in cages, of which there are 16 million in the UK – the majority of which are chickens. Neither should farrowing sows be kept in crates which compromises their welfare. Additionally, I am concerned about the large numbers of pheasants and partridges bred in cages and reared for shooting. We must put an end to the use of cages on our farms and in our production systems.
Britain is known to be a nation of animal lovers, and extensive scientific evidence proves that animals can think, feel, experience pain and suffer. We must ensure that this is recognised in law and that Government and other public bodies must take account of this in the formulation and implementation of policy.
I will write to the Secretary of State and ask them to bring forward this legislation without further delay. We must help protect the legal recognition of animal sentience and ensure there is no gap in UK law when we leave the EU at the end of this year.
The Agriculture Bill would have given the opportunity to legislate for these matters but the Government chose not to do so. The Bill is now being considered by the House of Lords where I hope there are opportunities to amend the Bill sympathetically. If this is the case, I will look forward to supporting appropriate amendments when the Bill is further considered by the Commons.