As part of its 50-point Animal Welfare Manifesto for Government, Labour is urging the government to embed the principle in law as quickly as possible, to impose a duty on the state to have due regard for animal welfare in developing and implementing all future policy.
It also calls on the government to expand its definition of sentience to cover cephalopod and decapod crustaceans, to ensure that species such as lobsters and squid will also be protected in the new legislation.
The manifesto sets out several other action points closely aligned with BVA’s manifesto, including a call for a ban on the keeping and trading of primates as pets, and a recommendation for closer working with dog welfare organisations to tackle the issue of puppy smuggling.
The association has been campaigning for animal sentience to be enshrined in UK law before Brexit, and coordinated an open letter on the subject from over 1,200 vets, vet nurses and students last year.
Simon Doherty, BVA President, said: “It’s good to see sentience near the top of Labour’s very wide-ranging list of animal welfare priorities for government, and we hope that they will note the renewed impetus behind enshrining this fundamental principle of how society should treat all species into law as quickly as possible.
“There is considerable and long-standing professional and public feeling behind the campaign to enshrine sentience, which makes it all the more disappointing that it still hasn’t been given the go-ahead despite government assurances that they are committed to the legislation and underpinning principles.”
Doherty added: “Parliamentary time may be tighter than ever before, but there is a golden opportunity here to make the UK’s status as a global leader on animal welfare resoundingly clear.”