As the Member of Parliament for Gower I have long supported calls to enshrine the principle of animal sentience in UK law to prevent practices that expose both wild and domestic animals to cruel and degrading treatment.
There is a wealth of scientific evidence proving animals can feel and experience pain and we must adopt that recognition in UK law to move forward on animal welfare.
Since first getting elected in 2017, I've had to contend with a UK Tory Government that's been very enthusiastic, releasing waves of press releases, but has dragged its heels on action.
Following years of pressure from the public and animal welfare organisations to introduce meaningful legislation, the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill was introduced in May 2021 to the House of Lords. This is now undergoing scrutiny in the House of Commons and passed its Second Reading on 18 January 2022.
I am supportive of this bill and I believe its important because the formal and legal recognition of animal sentience sends a clear message that we are committed as a country to protecting the welfare of animals. I also welcome the inclusion of decapod crustaceans and cephalopod molluscs to the list of sentient animals in the Bill.
Animal welfare is devolved in Wales and I am glad we have a Welsh Labour Government who recognise animal welfare as a priority. Its position on sentience “is clear.” It fully agrees animals are sentient beings.
On 4 November 2021 the Welsh Government published its Animal Welfare Plan for Wales 2021 to 2026 which is a five-year plan which outlines steps towards achieving of ensuring a good quality of life for all animals. The plan also includes a broad range of ongoing animal welfare policy work, including statutory guidance for existing regulations, licensing of animal exhibits, welfare of animals in transport, and Codes of Practice. Finally, it describes how the Welsh Government will work collaboratively with the other UK governments to further the animal welfare agenda.
This legislation represents a positive step in the right direction but this bill is far from perfect. Many changes are still needed at a UK level on animal welfare like closing the loopholes in the Hunting Act leading to wild animal cruelty.
I will follow developments closely as the legislation moves through the Lords, and I will continue to press for action to make much-needed improvements to the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill and to ensure animal sentience is formally recognised in law at the earliest opportunity.