EU Protocol on animal sentience

Part of European Union (Withdrawal) Bill – in the House of Commons at 7:00 pm on 15th November 2017.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Caroline Lucas Caroline Lucas Co-Leader of the Green Party 7:00 pm, 15th November 2017

I am pleased to speak in support of new clause 30, which is in my name and those of many other hon. Members, as well as new clause 60 and amendments 93 to 95. I am hopeful of finding support across the House for new clause 30, on animal sentience, because I do not think it should be controversial.

By way of background, in 1997—20 years ago—the UK Government, during their presidency of the EU, convinced the then 14 other member states that EU law should explicitly recognise that animals were sentient beings, and not simply agricultural goods like bags of potatoes that could be maltreated with impunity. In other words, it was a recognition that, like us, animals are aware of their surroundings; that they have the capacity to feel pain, hunger, heat and cold; and that they are aware of what is happening to them and of their interaction with other animals, including humans.

The resulting protocol, which came into force in 1999, changed how animals were regarded and ensured that future EU legislation was not implemented on the basis of the lowest standards of animal welfare, but that it took animal sentience into account. That understanding has since informed more than 20 pieces of EU law on animal welfare, including the ban on sealskin imports, the ban on conventional battery cages and the ban on cosmetics testing on animals.

In 2009, the original protocol was incorporated into the Lisbon treaty as article 13 of title II. The Government have rightly and commendably committed to transferring all existing EU law on animal welfare into UK law under the Bill, but because the text of the Lisbon treaty is not transferred by the Bill, the wording of article 13 on animal sentience will not explicitly be incorporated into UK law. As things stand, despite having one of the longest-standing animal welfare laws in the world—something of which we are rightly proud—the UK has no legal instrument other than article 13 of the Lisbon treaty to provide that animals are sentient beings.