Animal Welfare

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 30th November 2017.

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Photo of Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Green

To ask Her Majesty's Government which sections of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 explicitly recognise animals as sentient beings; and what assessment they have made of the operation of the provisions of that Act on (1) farm animals, (2) wild animals, and (3) laboratory animals.

Photo of Lord Gardiner of Kimble Lord Gardiner of Kimble The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Section 1(1) of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 defines an animal for the purpose of the Act as a vertebrate other than man. This is because, as stated in the Explanatory Notes to the Act, vertebrates are currently “the only demonstrably sentient animals”. Section 1(3) of the Act provides powers to extend the definition of “animal” to cover invertebrates if scientific evidence shows they are also sentient; that is they “are capable of experiencing pain or suffering”.

The main “cruelty” offence in the Act (at section 4) applies to all vertebrates commonly domesticated in the British Islands, whether they can be said to be under the control of man or not and to all other vertebrates under the control of man, or not living in a wild state (“protected animals)”. The Wild Mammals (Protection) Act 1996 specifically protects any other wild mammals from cruelty. The main “promotion of welfare” offence at section 9 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 covers any vertebrate for which a person is responsible. Therefore the main offences in the Animal Welfare Act cover both farmed vertebrates and any wild vertebrates under the control of man, or not living in a wild state.

The cruelty offence at section 4 also applies to any vertebrates used in a laboratory excepting anything lawfully permitted under The Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986.

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