Welwyn Hatfield and Potters Bar MPs speak out on animal sentience decision

PUBLISHED: 10:39 21 November 2017 | UPDATED: 10:39 21 November 2017

Oliver Dowden and Grant Shapps.

Oliver Dowden and Grant Shapps.


Welwyn Hatfield MP Grant Shapps and Potters Bar MP Oliver Dowden have explained why they voted to reject a clause that would transfer the recognition of animal sentience - the admission that animals feel pain and emotion - into UK law post Brexit.

Last week the majority of MPs rejected the inclusion of a crucial clause that would transfer the recognition of animal sentience into UK law post Brexit in an eight-hour parliamentary debate on the EU Withdrawal Bill.

Welwyn Hatfield MP Grant Shapps and Potters Bar MP Oliver Dowden were among 313 MPs who voted to reject the clause.

Grant Shapps said: “As a dog and cat owner, I love animals and would only ever want to see the highest standards of animal welfare.

“I am proud that the UK has some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world.

“Ministers have been clear that they intend it to remain world-leading in the future and, as a minimum, to retain our existing standards of animal welfare once we have left the EU.

“However, by way of background, having looked into this matter, I understand the main reason for the move was to harmonise the legal status of animals under the French Civil Code with its Penal and Rural Codes, which already recognised animals as having interests that could not apply to inanimate property.

“It made no change to the protections animals enjoy.”

Mr Shapps added: “However, UK laws are arranged differently so it is not possible to draw a direct comparison between our legal regimes, but I did note that French legislators explicitly rejected bans on bullfighting and cockfighting, both of which are obviously illegal here.

“The EU (Withdrawal) Bill will convert the existing body of direct EU animal welfare laws to become UK laws.

“Most of these EU laws relate to farmed animals and many were passed after Article 13 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) came into effect.

“Based on the Animal Welfare Act the Animal Protection Index, maintained by World Animal Protection, rates the UK’s formal recognition of animal sentience as grade A. Other Lisbon Treaty signatories such as France, Italy and Spain do not enjoy this rating, having each received grade C.

“I therefore believe that existing UK legislation, which provides necessary and appropriate protection for animals in this country, will not be weakened when we leave the EU.

“In effect, this particular amendment sought to introduce an amendment which is relevant to countries like France, Italy and Spain where according to the Animal Protection Index ratings are significantly poorer, but not to the UK where we maintain much higher standards already.”

Oliver Dowden said: “The purpose of the EU Withdrawal Bill is to put EU law into British law so that there is not a cliff edge on the day we leave.

“The Bill therefore needs to be as simple as possible.

“If the Bill passes, all EU animal welfare legislation will come into British law.

“As I have said many times before, including at Prime Ministers Questions earlier this month, I believe that when we leave the EU we should seek to strengthen animal welfare laws further, but this Bill is not the vehicle for doing so.”

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