Environment Secretary Michael Gove has bowed to public pressure over animal sentience, saying he will “make Brexit work for animals”.
In a speech today he said he will enhance animal welfare standards, increasing the maximum prison sentence for ‘animal cruelty’ from six months to five years in England and Wales.
He said: “Animals are sentient beings who feel pain and suffering, so we are writing that principle into law and ensuring that we protect their welfare.
“We are a nation of animal lovers so we will make Brexit work not just for citizens but for the animals we love and cherish too.”
Gove faced an unprecedented public backlash earlier this year after parliament narrowly defeated an amendment submitted by Green MP Caroline Lucas to transfer an EU protocol set out in Article 13 of Title II of the Lisbon Treaty into UK law.
The clause, which says animals are sentient beings, was introduced into the EU constitution thanks to the campaigning of Brit Peter Roberts, who together with his wife, Anna, set up a trust called Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) which is still running today.
But it was under threat when parliament rejected its inclusion in UK law by a slim majority of 18.
Chris Luffingham, Director of Campaigns at the League Against Cruel Sports, told PBN: “The world is waking up to the fact that animals are fully sentient individuals able to feel pain and suffer, so it’s a no-brainer that our legal system needs to recognise this.
“We cannot have a situation where fact is being ignored for political reasons – it’s much easier to kill an animal for sport if you convince people the animal didn’t feel pain.
“We cannot go backwards on this – all animals, whether they be domestic, wild or farm animals, need to be protected from harm – so if we get clarification from the Government that this applies to all animals, this step will be very welcome.”