The BVA has expressed its “extreme concern” after MPs voted to reject the inclusion of a crucial clause that would transfer the recognition of animal sentience into UK law post-Brexit.
Green Party MP Caroline Lucas had submitted an amendment clause (NC30) to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, which sought to transfer the EU Protocol on animal sentience set out in Article 13 of Title II of the Lisbon Treaty into UK law, so animals continue to be recognised as sentient beings under domestic law.
At the end of an eight-hour parliamentary debate, the new clause was rejected, with an 18 majority for the Government – 313 against, 295 in favour.
Responding to the vote, BVA senior vice-president Gudrun Ravetz said: “It is extremely concerning a marginal majority of MPs have voted down this seminal clause.
“Enshrining animal sentience in UK law would have acknowledged that we consider animals as being capable of feelings such as pain and contentment and, so, deserving of consideration and respect. It is a founding principle of animal welfare science and the way we should treat all animals.
“As an animal welfare-led profession, the BVA has been calling on the Government to at least maintain standards of animal health and welfare and public health. Yet, actions speak louder than words, and this action undermines the Government’s previous promises the UK will continue to be known for our high standards of animal health and welfare post-Brexit.
“There is an urgent need for clarity from the Government on how the provisions in Article 13 will be enshrined in UK law to ensure we do not fall short of the high standards we expect as a nation of animal lovers.”
Ms Lucas said: “The decision by the Government to vote down my amendment on animal sentience really was disappointing. This change would have guaranteed animals don’t become collateral damage in the Brexit negotiations – and it’s a real shame it was rejected.
“I know animal lovers will be concerned by this setback, but there’s still a chance the House of Lords can change the bill – and enshrine animal sentience into British law.”
Dogs Trust officials are strongly urging the House of Lords to take forward the issue of animal sentience when the EU Withdrawal Bill is debated there, most likely early next year.