Worcester MP Robin Walker has welcomed an announcement by Environment Secretary Michael Gove that a new law is to be introduced ensuring that animal abusers are jailed for up to 5 years and animal sentience is strengthened in domestic law.

The Government has published a draft bill which would increase the maximum prison sentence for animal cruelty tenfold, from six months to five years, in England and Wales. The draft bill also sets out that the government “must have regard to the welfare needs of animals as sentient beings in formulating and implementing government policy”. Subject to consultation on the draft bill, the government will legislate to deliver both aims.

The plans underline the Government’s commitment to raising animal welfare standards, ensuring there will be enhanced protections for animals as we leave the EU.

The Bill forms part of a package of animal welfare and environmental protection measures to be introduced in this Parliament. Legislation to ban the manufacture of microbeads – tiny pieces of plastic that are easily swallowed by marine life – will be introduced this year in a move that has been welcomed by Greenpeace as offering the strongest legislative protection in the world. Mandatory CCTV surveillance will also be introduced in abattoirs to make enforcement of welfare standards stronger, and the most comprehensive ivory ban in Europe is to be implemented.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said:

“As we leave the EU we will deliver a Green Brexit, not only maintaining but enhancing animal welfare standards.”

“Animals are sentient beings who feel pain and suffering, so we are writing that principle into law and ensuring that we protect their welfare.”

“Our plans will also increase sentences for those who commit the most heinous acts of animal cruelty to five years in jail.”

“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.”

RSPCA Head of Public Affairs David Bowles said: 

“This is potentially great news for animals post-Brexit.

“To include the recognition of animal sentience as well as increasing animal cruelty sentencing to 5 years into the new 2018 Animal Welfare Bill is a very bold and welcome move by the Government.

“Even better, the legislation explicitly rejects the kind of exemptions for activities that the European Union deemed acceptable – such as bull-fighting and producing foie gras – which will offer even stronger protection than Article 13 of the EU Treaty could ever do.

“We warmly welcome measures to evaluate government policy against animal sentience and we await further detail.”

Speaking in support of the announcement, Robin Walker said:

“I welcome this announcement by the Environment Secretary, which will enshrine world-class protections for animal welfare in British law and give the courts the powers they need to hand down longer sentences to those who cruelly abuse animals.”

“This Bill also strengthens in law the principle of animal sentience, something which a lot of my constituents contacted me to express their concerns on recently following misleading reports in the press that suggested the Government was in some way denying this principle. As I made clear at the time, this was never the case. In fact, it was the UK that introduced the principle of animal sentience to the EU in the first place, and was a principle that was already reflected in UK domestic law.”

“The amendment which the Government opposed was attempting to take one small part of a treaty and turn it into law, which would not have worked. Existing EU law does not provide the protections animals need and deserve. It allows for practices across Europe which we believe should end, such as puppy farming – an issue we can only tackle once we leave the European Union and have the freedom to enforce higher standards.  Another area where we have pledged to improve controls is on the live export of animals, something that existing EU laws actually encourage.”

“The EU (Withdrawal) Bill was not the appropriate legislative vehicle for these reforms – this new Bill, dedicated solely to the protection of animals from cruelty and abuse, serves as one part of a wider programme of reform to cement the UK’s position as a global leader on animal welfare as we leave the EU.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

To read the draft Animal Welfare (Sentencing and Recognition of Sentience) Bill 2017 in full, please see: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/draft-animal-welfare-sentencing-and-recognition-of-sentience-bill-2017

To submit your views on the draft Bill, responses can be sent as part of the consultation period (open until 31st January 2018). Please see: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/draft-animal-welfare-sentencing-and-recognition-of-sentience-bill-2017

To read Robin’s statement following the animal sentience debate, see: https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=2011241619143468&id=1451563805111255