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Concerns are being raised by animal welfare organisations over the potential for welfare regulations to be relaxed after the UK leaves the European Union.
Compassion in World Farming recently sent out a highly charged and emotive advisory note to members and supporters suggesting that once the UK is no longer part of the EU part of the Treaty of Lisbon that recognised animals as “sentient” will be dropped.
The animal welfare group told its members: “The legal status of British animals as sentient beings is still under threat.
“In August, the UK government confirmed, directly to us, that they do not intend to amend the Repeal Bill. When they convert EU law into UK law, they are determined to ignore Article 13 of the EU Treaty – which serves to acknowledge that animals can feel pain, suffer and experience joy.
“This obligation will not be preserved by the EU (Withdrawal Bill); which delivers our promise to end the supremacy of EU law in the UK.” – Defra Under Secretary of State, Lord Gardiner, August 2017.
The organisation has a petition calling for the issue to be debated and for the Environments secretary Michael Gove to take note.
By mid-September the petition had achieved 75,000 signatures.
However, CIWF has failed to inform its members that in July in answer to questions on animal welfare, Michael Gove confirmed that animals are and would be considered as sentient beings.
In the questions, Henry Smith (Crawley) (Con) asked: “Can my right hon. Friend confirm that article 13 of the Lisbon treaty, which categorises animals as sentient beings, will be part of the repeal Bill?”
Michael Gove replied: “Absolutely. Before we entered the European Union, we recognised in our own legislation that animals were sentient beings. I am an animal; we are all animals, and therefore I care. It is an absolutely vital commitment that we have to ensure that all creation is maintained, enhanced and protected.”
The Lisbon Treaty was signed by the EU member states in 2007. The UK animal Welfare Act of 2006 already referred to animals as sentient beings.
In its definition of an animal for reference to the act, it says: “The Act will apply only to vertebrate animals, as these are currently the only demonstrably sentient animals. However, section 1(3) makes provision for the appropriate national authority to extend the Act to cover invertebrates in the future if they are satisfied on the basis of scientific evidence that these too are capable of experiencing pain or suffering.”
CIWF could be crying wolf once too often, for by exaggerating the threats to animal welfare, it could detract from true cases when its voice is really needed.