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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

While absolutely committing to bring forward the legislation at some point, I am not committing to bringing it forward this year, which I am seeking to explain is not necessary because other protections are in place.

I have listened with interest to discussions on sentience, including on whether a new animal welfare advisory body should be created. It is clearly important that the Government receive the right expert advice when assessing the impacts on welfare needs. Various models might be appropriate. DEFRA already has an animal welfare committee tasked with providing independent, impartial advice to Ministers on welfare matters. We heard from Allan Dorans about the introduction of the Scottish animal welfare commission to provide advice on sentience. It undertakes interesting work, and I assure the hon. Gentleman that we follow the progress of that commission extremely closely. The Home Office’s Animals in Science Committee advises on all matters concerning the use of animals in scientific procedures. There are a number of models that we can choose from, and we are actively exploring the options.

I thank the hon. Member for Bristol East for securing the debate on this important issue. I know that she attempted to introduce a private Member’s Bill on it in the last Parliament. Unfortunately, there was no parliamentary time to debate it, but I look forward to debating our new proposals with her when we can bring them forward. The Government place great importance on the welfare of animals, and the measures I set out demonstrate the steps that the Government have taken, and continue to take, to strengthen our high animal welfare standards.

I end, because it is important that I do this, by putting to bed the ghosts of Patricia Gibson and reaffirming, whether necessary or otherwise, that the Government are absolutely committed to maintaining high standards of animal welfare, food security and environmental protection. The Secretary of State, as the shadow Minister rather teasingly referred to, is very committed to high standards, as am I. Chlorinated chicken is absolutely not allowed under English law; it is simply not something that we have to worry about. High standards are here, and we hope that higher standards will come in the future. Nobody need be worried about spooks in the night.