In Brief

MPs vote that ‘animals can’t feel pain or emotion’ as part of Brexit bill

‘It’s shocking that MPs have given animal sentience the thumbs down’, say animal rights activists

MPs have voted to reject the inclusion of a clause that states animals can feel emotion and pain into the EU withdrawal bill.

The government “faced a backlash after voting to dismiss animal sentience from the Brexit bill,” says The Evening Standard.

The clause would have enshrined into UK law the recognition that animals feel pain and emotion, an admission currently covered by EU law.

Some 80% of animal welfare legislation “currently comes from the EU but after March 2019 European law will no longer apply in the UK,” explains Metro.

The move has been criticised by animal rights activists, who say the vote undermines environment secretary Michael Gove’s pledge to prioritise animal rights during Brexit.

The government said during the debate before the vote that this clause is covered by the Animal Welfare Act 2006, but the RSPCA disputed the claim.

RSPCA head of public affairs David Bowles said: “It’s shocking. This is truly a backward step for animal welfare.”

“Only domestic animals are really covered by the provisions of the act and animals in the wild and laboratories are expressly exempt. It is simply wrong for the Government to claim that the act protects animal sentience.”

Nick Palmer, head of policy at Compassion in World Farming, said: "How can the UK be seen as a leader in animal welfare when the repeal bill fails to guarantee that animals will continue to be regarded as sentient beings?

"We urge the government to reintroduce the commitment into the Bill."

Bowles added: “In the EU, we know that the recognition of animals as sentient beings has been effective in improving animal welfare across the region.”

“If the UK is to achieve the Environment Secretary’s objective of achieving the highest possible animal welfare post-Brexit, it must do the same.”

Animal sentience “was incorporated into EU law in 2009 via the Lisbon Treaty, following years of campaigning by animal rights activists,” reports The Independent.

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