Huge Milestone! UK Law Now Recognises Animals as Being Sentient
Update (28 April 2022): The Animal Welfare (Sentience) Act 2022 has received royal assent. Finally, UK law recognises animals as being sentient.
Originally published on 7 April 2022:
Today marks a significant milestone for animals in the UK. The Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill has been approved by Parliament. Soon the new legislation will recognise that animals are sentient beings. Once the bill receives Royal Assent, the new law will be known as the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Act 2022.
Thank you to all the MPs who spoke in favour of the bill and the thousands of PETA supporters who urged their MPs to support it!
What Is the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Act 2022?
The Animal Welfare (Sentience) Act 2022 will recognise in law what we’ve long known: that other animals are living, feeling beings with complex thoughts and emotions, each able to experience pain, fear, love, and joy.
Anyone who has spent time with an animal knows that they are sentient beings. The science backs this up, too. Soon, UK law will also acknowledge this fact.
Now, policymakers will need to take into account the unique needs of animals (the scope of this legislation includes all vertebrate animals and some invertebrate animals such as octopuses and lobsters) when creating laws. It will also require that the government establish an Animal Sentience Committee to scrutinise and report on whether the government is taking into account the adverse effect of any policy “on the welfare of animals as sentient beings”.
When We Speak Out, They Listen
A coalition of over 50 other animal protection organisations, including PETA, – known as The Better Deal for Animals coalition – have rallied since 2017 to get this bill passed. At PETA, we’ve encouraged our many supporters to contact their MPs, urging them to show support for the bill.
Our voices were heard! The bill received cross-party backing, and several MPs mentioned the tremendous support their constituents had shown for it:
“It is no exaggeration to say that I am contacted daily by constituents on one aspect or another of animal welfare.”
– Emma Hardy, MP, Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Lab)
“There is overwhelming public demand for sentience legislation.”
– Jo Churchill, MP, Bury St Edmunds (Con)
“I thank the campaigners and members of the public who have emailed MPs, signed petitions and kept pressing.”
– Kerry McCarthy, MP, Bristol East (Lab)
Let’s Also Take Personal Responsibility
As much as animal sentience is a legal issue, it’s also a moral one. If society accepts that other animals are sentient beings, just like humans, we must also accept that it’s wrong to kill them for a meal or a pair of shoes.
We know that the other beings with whom we share the planet can feel joy, sadness, and fear; that they have their own thoughts, language, and cultures; and that they have the burning desire to live free.
We cannot justify killing sentient beings for a fleeting moment of taste.
Like humans, cows have best friends – and they become distressed when separated. They grieve intensely and shed tears when their loved ones die or are taken away. How can we kill these animals for a sandwich filler? It’s unconscionable.
We don’t have to wait for legislation to catch up and make illegal all the practices that harm animals. We can take a stand against speciesism and align our lifestyles with our values right now. We have the opportunity to save lives three times a day when we sit down for a meal. With so many vegan options available, it’s easier than ever.
Take Action for Animals Today
This bill undoubtedly represents progress for animals. However, there is still much more work to be done. The government is apparently de-prioritising other animal welfare measures by dropping the promised Animals Abroad Bill, which would seek to ban the sale of fur and foie gras.
When we speak out, things change. Please urge your MP to help save the Animals Abroad Bill: