Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Sentience and Welfare of Animals — [Sir Roger Gale in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:21 pm on 16th March 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Luke Pollard Luke Pollard Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 5:21 pm, 16th March 2020

The difficulty when we sit on the Opposition Benches, where our job is to scrutinise rather than to support, is that we look for evidence of the words. There is a genuine risk that standards could be undercut.

It is important to make a distinction here, because this is frequently lost in interventions, although I hope that will not be the case with the hon. Gentleman. It is not that we think the Government will somehow lower our standards immediately, but by signing trade deals that undercut our standards and permit food produced to lower animal welfare standards or with negative environmental impacts, we will be allowing in produce that undercuts our own farmers and our high animal welfare standards, and that creates an incentive to lower regulatory pressures in the UK—or protections, as the Opposition like to think of them.

That is not something that is supported. It is not supported by Labour, it is not supported by the SNP and it is not supported by many Conservative Members, nor is it supported by the National Farmers Union and other groups. There are elements of cross-party support for keeping standards high and keeping that in law; it is one of those areas where we can come together on a cross-party basis to say that animal sentience should be in law. If we did, it should be a simple Bill with good scrutiny—the Minister knows that there are many experts in this House who would happily advise her for free along the way—because it is important that we get it done. At the moment, far from getting done, it is just getting delayed.

I hope that the Minister, when she gets to her feet, will give a boost to the petitioners—all 104,000 of them, in nearly every single parliamentary constituency of the country—and reassure them that this petition will not only enjoy warm words from Government, but see Government action before the end of the implementation period at the end of this year.