All animal lovers know that animals can feel emotions such as pain, pleasure, boredom, excitement, frustration and joy. We know not only through our own experiences with our much-loved companion animals, but also through the mounting scientific evidence that continues to prove animals are sentient beings. For example, science shows us some interesting abilities in farm animals:
- Sheep can recognise up to 50 other sheep’s faces and remember them for two years
- Cows show excitement when they discover how to open a gate leading to a food reward
- Mother hens teach their chicks which foods are good to eat
- Lame chickens choose to eat food which contains a painkiller
It is now widely believed that sentience is key to an animal’s survival as it aids them in distinguishing between different objects and animals, as well as knowing which is helpful or could cause them harm. Sentience also helps animals understand social relationships and the behaviour of other individuals.
Despite this, when the UK left the European Union, animal sentience was no longer protected under Article 13 of the Lisbon Treaty. This meant that the UK lost the legal principle that underpinned animal welfare protections, with ministers no longer having to consider animal welfare when formulating policies. That’s why for years we have been calling on the UK Government to protect animals as sentient beings in UK law and pushing them to go further still to improve on the protections afforded to animals in the formulation of government policy, following our exit from the EU.
So, what now?
Last year, the government finally tabled the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill which, if passed, will:
- Recognise animals as sentient beings
- Establish a responsibility for ministers to consider the welfare needs of sentient beings when making and implementing policies
- Establish an Animal Sentience Committee with the power to scrutinise government policy and report on how impact on the welfare of sentient beings was considered.
After a positive Second Reading and Committee Stage in the House of Commons, with the majority of MPs showing support for the Bill, it now moves on to the Report Stage where further amendments may be tabled and considered. This will be immediately followed by the Third Reading where the Bill will receive a final debate and MPs will decide whether to pass or reject the Bill in its entirety.
This is where your voice can make a difference. We need your help to ensure the Sentience Bill passes through the House of Commons with mass support from MPs. On March 7, the legislation will enter the Report Stage and have its Third Reading in Parliament, and you can play a vital role in helping to defend it. By writing to your MP today, you can help protect millions of animals by ensuring the Sentience Bill continues its safe passage through Parliament.
Read the template letter
I am writing to you today as your constituent and as an animal lover to urge you to support the Animal Welfare (Sentience Bill), which is now at the Report stage, soon to be followed by the Third Reading. This will be your final chance to represent me on this issue and speak up for animal sentience – will you support the Sentience Bill and help push it through to Royal Assent?
Animals are sentient beings – meaning that they can experience emotions such as joy, pleasure, pain and fear. Numerous scientific reports have proven this fact, including examples of elephants showing empathy and even pigs enjoying computer games.
UK law is currently out of step with this scientific consensus. Whilst Ministers were bound to recognise animal sentience by the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, this fell out of our law in January 2021 following the end of the Brexit transition period.
The Government pledged in its manifesto and Animal Welfare Action Plan to remedy this through the introduction of the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill, and this decision was supported by all major parties.
Critically, the Bill not only recognises the sentience of animals, but it also establishes a new committee to scrutinise government policy to consider whether policies will have an impact on the welfare of animals as sentient beings.
I support these necessary measures to enshrine sentience in UK law. Please will you speak in support of animal sentience during the final reading debate and vote in favour of the Sentience Bill?
As a priority, I need you to defend this legislation against any opposition to ensure it remains as strong as possible for animals. I also need you to support amendments to the Bill that further strengthen duties placed on Ministers and government departments to consider animal welfare, and those that enable further independence and resourcing of the Animal Sentience Committee to inform on both positive and adverse impacts of policy on animals.
The Bill is supported by FOUR PAWS UK and the Better Deal for Animals coalition, a group of over 50 animal welfare charities, working together to highlight animal sentience. If you would like to reach out to them, you can be in touch with the UK Country Director of FOUR PAWS on firstname.lastname@example.org.
I hope that as my MP, you will support this important Bill and show that the UK truly is a nation of animal lovers.
Thank you for your consideration of my request.
After years of campaigning on this issue, with your help we will soon ensure that animals are recognised as sentient beings whose feelings must be considered in UK Government policy formulation.
*The facts in this blog are provided by the Summary Report on Recognising the Sentience of Farm Animals by Compassion in World Farming.