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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:36 pm on 16th March 2020.

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Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 5:36 pm, 16th March 2020

On your birthday? That is good news. We have coupled the ban with a very effective public awareness campaign—not everything is to do with legislation; there are other methods of getting the animal welfare message out there—called “Petfished”, on how to source puppies and kittens responsibly and how to watch out for the tricks that clever and deceitful sellers use in this area. I encourage all those who have not seen it to have a quick google.

The Wild Animals in Circuses Act 2019 recently came into force, ensuring that wild animals can no longer perform in travelling circuses. CCTV is now mandatory for all slaughterhouses in England. We also support the Animal Welfare (Service Animals) Act 2019, commonly known as Finn’s law, which increases protections for police animals. It was mentioned by my neighbour, my hon. Friend John Howell. I spoke from the Back Benches in favour of that Act, as I think he did, and I met Finn, which was truly an honour.

The Government will introduce the necessary legislation on animal sentience as soon as we can, and I look forward to debating the details of the legislation with Members, particularly those present. Several useful points have been made during the debate, which I will take back and feed in.

There is considerable and growing interest in cephalopods and decapod crustaceans and whether they are sentient. At DEFRA, we have to follow the science, and because we want to ensure that this matter is progressed, we commissioned an independent review of the science on the sentience of those creatures, as the hon. Member for Bristol East said. A tender for the review was published on 6 March, and its findings will provide us with a robust scientific view later this year. I do not know the history of this matter, I am afraid—I have been the Minister only since just before the review was commissioned—but I think it is important that we look carefully at what that review says. It will be a full review of the evidence out there, and I look forward to sharing it and discussing it with the hon. Lady.