The UK Government is set to publish a number of new draft animal welfare and protection laws.
The proposals include a new Animal Sentience Bill, which would give vertebrate animals the legal right to feel happiness and pain. The new law would recognise ‘sentience’ in animals with a spinal cord, which means they are recognised as being aware of their feelings and emotions and have the capacity to experience joy, pleasure, pain and suffering.
There are also proposals for an Animals Abroad Bill which would ban the import of hunting trophies, and a Kept Animals Bill, preventing live animal exports and introducing a ban on families from keeping primates as pets.
Environment secretary George Eustice confirmed that tomorrow’s Queen’s Speech will emphasise the Government’s drive to raise animal welfare standards by setting out the draft laws.
The Government is also due to publish an animal welfare strategy, covering other areas of concern relating to animal welfare, such as a potential ban on fur imports, microchipping all domestic cats and ending the practice of gassing pigs with carbon dioxide.
Mr Eustice said a committee of experts and civil servants in Defra are being tasked with reviewing and ensuring Government policies take into account animal sentience.
The proposals come after Ministers were faced criticism in 2018 for failing to carry over the duty relating to animal sentience from EU law following Brexit.
On 29 April 2021, the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill received Royal Assent and will come into force on 29 June 2021. The new law introduces tougher prison sentences for animal cruelty, with the maximum prison sentence for animal cruelty being raised from six months to five years from 29 June 2021.