A petition to reverse the UK Government’s decided to exclude the status of animals as sentient beings in the EU withdrawal bill has reached 178,000.
MPs rejected the clause to recognise animals as sentient, a provision covered by EU law. As part of the EU withdrawal bill Green MP Caroline Lucas submitted the clause but it was rejected with 313 votes against and 295 in favour.
From March 2019 European law will no longer apply within the UK.
A statement on the petition says: “Animals have long held the status of being sentient beings in the UK, through legislation created in the EU. This means they are recognised as being capable of feeling emotions such as joy and compassion, but also fear, suffering and terror. The vote in Parliament, narrowly won by the Government, removes this status from all animals in the UK, and is a massive blow for the welfare of wildlife, pets and livestock alike.”
Charities and organisations have also shared their upset at the decision. OneKind Director Harry Huyton said: “This has been a principle of EU law for twenty years. Its introduction was a landmark moment for animal protection in Europe as it recognised that all animals are sentient beings and that the European Union had a duty to ‘pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals’ when developing and implementing policy.
“This has become a bedrock for animal protection across Europe and is a key legal principle. Its loss as a result of Brexit would be a major backwards step for animals and would send a strong message that the UK is willing to sacrifice animal welfare for economic gain.
“Whilst Westminster might be willing to take this step backwards, we can’t believe that the Scottish Parliament would. Today we’re therefore calling on the Scottish Government to urgently bring forward a proposal that would enshrine the principle of animal sentience in Scottish law.”
The Dogs Trust has warned that there is a real risk of animal welfare laws slipping in the UK.