UK animal sentience bill frightens the countryside pursuits brigade

Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill
Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill
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NEWS AND COMMENT: In Britain, there is a vociferous group of people who like to participate in countryside pursuits which includes hunting foxes and shooting birds. They defend their right to kill animals for pleasure at every opportunity (fox hunting is banned in the UK but it still happens). And an opportunity has arisen for them to start shouting from the rooftops. It is the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill which is currently being debated in the House of Lords as it goes through Parliament. I would hope and expect it to become law and in which case it would enshrine in law the principle that animals are sentient.

The title to the bill: “A Bill to make provision for an Animal Sentience Committee with functions relating to the effect of government policy on the welfare of animals as sentient beings”.

Note: the existing Animal Welfare Act 2006 implies in its wording that animals are sentient creatures. I guess this new law spells it out.

Animal Sentience
Animal Sentience. Photo in public domain. A superb Maine Coon.

This would be a major step in improved animal welfare in the UK. It would lead almost all the world’s countries. To recognise that animals are sentient, have emotions and feel pain would force a change in attitude towards animals by people who have a less than sympathetic approach to animal welfare. In a sense, the world can be divided into two groups: those who are sensitive to animal welfare and their feelings and those who aren’t. The latter is the same group that likes to shoot animals for pleasure which explains why they are frightened of this proposed law.

They say that it will be used by animal advocates to destroy countryside pursuits such as fishing and game shooting. The angling community are worried. Let’s remind ourselves that fish feel pain and therefore in my view fishing should be banned entirely. And perhaps this bill might lead to that eventually.

Those who like to participate in countryside pursuits regards animal advocates as zealots and ideologues. They see them as dangerous and that the bill will “herald the start of a systematic assault on country sports such as fishing and shooting.”

I’m pleased that they are worried. They should be. They have had it their own way for too long; taking pleasure out of country sports which is a euphemism for hurting animals for pleasure.

The bill is the product of Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park, the environment minister who is a friend of Carrie Johnson. We know that Carrie Johnson, the Prime Minister’s wife, has an agenda which is to improve animal welfare. This is very welcome to animal advocates like myself. She obviously has the Prime Minister’s ear. This bill would not have been created but for her and her friend Lord Goldsmith.

If and when the bill becomes law it will appoint an animal sentience committee which would scrutinise whether government ministers had paid due regard to any adverse effect that their policies might have on the welfare of animals as sentient beings. In other words, any proposed future policies and laws would have to comply with the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Act. The act would protect animal rights and their welfare. It would stop those rights being trampled on by the conservative elite of the UK who see nothing wrong in activities which harm animals.

The detractors to the proposed law say that “it must be sensitive to ensuring the country continues to have a successful agricultural industry”. They fear that farmers may suffer because of it. It may, for example, lead to steps being taken against the production of halal meat.

Lord Goldsmith is a patron of the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation as is Carrie Johnson. The organisation campaigns on many farm animal welfare issues. They are calling for a ban on farrowing crates for pigs, cages for hens, live exports and rules to protect fish from suffering slow painful death.

The bill will ban live exports for slaughter and fattening. The Conservatives, in their manifesto, committed to maintain the recognition that animals are sentient beings as set out in article 13 of the Lisbon Treaty which applied when the UK was part of the EU. Goldsmith wants the law to go further than EU law.

The advice delivered by the scrutinizing committee need not be followed. Therefore, the law is reasonably drafted and does not need amendment as demanded by the Countryside Alliance.


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