Michael Gove says new law will recognise animals as ‘sentient beings’

Written by Liz Bates on 12 December 2017 in News

The Environment Secretary pledged to prioritise animal welfare

Michael Gove: Picture credit - STEFAN WERMUTH/WPA Rota/Press Association Images

Michael Gove has said animals will be recognised as "sentient beings" in a new law.

The Environment Secretary pledged to prioritise animal welfare, saying he will "make Brexit work not just for citizens but for the animals we love and cherish too".

It comes after the Government defeated a Commons amendment last month on animal sentience, prompting misleading headlines suggesting Tory MPs thought animals could not feel pain or emotions.

The news was widely shared on social media, with high-profile celebrities laying into the Government over what they believed to be its policy stance.

But a new draft bill published today says the Government "must have regard to the welfare needs of animals as sentient beings in formulating and implementing government policy".

Gove 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."

The draft bill will also increase the maximum sentence for serious cruelty to animals to five years in jail.

Green Party leader and Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas, whose amendment sparked the debate about animal sentience, said today’s announcement by Gove was "a screeching U-turn”.

But David Bowles, the RSPCA head of public affairs, welcomed what he said was "potentially great news" for animals post-Brexit.

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