Much touted British law recognizing animal sentience amounts to forming a Parliamentary committee with no actual powers and a mandate to do nothing challenging “cultural traditions & regional heritage”
LONDON, U.K.––The 50-odd members of Better Deal for Animals, an alliance of 50 of leading British animal welfare organizations, lost no time congratulating themselves and declaring “Victory!” to donors after the April 7, 2022 final passage of the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill.
The Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill recognizes animal sentience by forming a Parliamentary committee to study it.
By itself the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill conveys no actual mandate to change any aspect of how animals are treated and used.
Weak already, weakened by amendment
Further, the yet to be named members of the Animal Sentience Committee were metaphorically defanged, declawed, dehorned, pinioned, and castrated by amendment nine days before the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill cleared third reading in the House of Commons, two weeks before clearing the House of Lords.
Pointed out Politics.com.uk after the March 15, 2022 amendment was approved by the House of Commons, “The new Animal Sentience Committee will now have to ‘respect legislative or administrative provisions and customs relating in particular to religious rites, cultural traditions and regional heritage.”
If the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill ever had any practical value at all, it was in privileging recognition of animal sentience ahead of “legislative or administrative provisions and customs” in reviewing legislation.
Sentience committee will have freedom to do nothing
Enthused Lee B. Rayment of Charity Today, apparently oblivious to the existence of the March 15, 2022 amendment, “The new law will see the formation of an Animal Sentience Committee which will have the freedom to scrutinize the extent to which any government policy has taken animals’ welfare needs into account, and is empowered to publish reports on its findings.
“The Minister with responsibility for that policy area then has a duty to lay before Parliament a written response to the Committee’s reports within three months.”
Little as being “empowered to publish reports” means, to which cabinet ministers need not respond for three months, the March 15, 2022 amendment severely limits “the freedom to scrutinize” by in effect providing an exemption for any government policy which purports to uphold “religious rites, cultural traditions and regional heritage.”
“Restricts the ability of litigious animal rights groups”
Explained Politics.com.uk, “The amendment was put forward by Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, Member of Parliament, British Association for Shooting & Conservation vice president and chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Shooting and Conservation, and Jonathan Djanogly, Member of Parliament, chair of the British Shooting Sports Council.”
Said Djanogly, “While my colleagues and I still hold reservations around the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill’s requirements, this amendment restricts the ability of litigious animal rights groups to damage the government and those who work with animals.”
Animal advocacy groups ignore amendment
Representatives of the allegedly “litigious animal rights groups” sidestepped any discussion of the March 15, 2022 amendment.
Said Royal SPCA of Great Britain chief executive Chris Sherwood, “We are pleased that the new Animal Sentience Committee will be able to influence public policy.”
How? Sherwood did not say.
No card, no flowers, no candy, but screwed
Recalled Humane Society International/UK executive director Claire Bass, “It’s exactly 200 years since the [passage of the] United Kingdom’s first animal welfare law, so the Sentience Act is a fantastic anniversary gift to animals.”
If Bass is married, one might surmise she would expect more on a significant anniversary than just a restricted pledge to discuss her feelings.
Four Paws [Vier Pfoten] United Kingdom director Sonul Badiani-Hamment suggested that, “In passing the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill, the government has taken one huge step forwards towards truly being considered a global leader for animal welfare.”
“Leader” follows the rest of western Europe, Australia, & Brazil?
Omitted from that assessment is that European Union legislation has recognized animal sentience since 2009, as have the laws of non-E.U. nations including Australia, Switzerland, and Brazil.
As Politics.com.uk noted, “Animal sentience was the only piece of E.U. legislation that was not transposed [into United Kingdom law] when the U.K. formally left the E.U. on 1st January 2021.
Compassion in World Farming senior policy manager James West acknowledged that history.
“We welcome the final passage of the bill that will once again enshrine animal sentience in U.K. law,” West said. “However, the Animal Sentience Committee still has a big job to do! It is critical that they prioritize those policies that have the potential to cause the greatest suffering to the largest number of animals, including, of course, the millions of animals facing welfare problems on Britain’s farms.”
Wildlife & Countryside Link chief executive Richard Benwell seemed more inclined to celebrate.
“It’s great to see Members of Parliament come together from all parties to recognize the sentience of animals,” Benwell said, albeit cautioning that, “The same consensus must hold to ensure that the advice of the new Animal Sentience Committee is followed by Government so that future policy reduces suffering and enhances the welfare of animals.”
Parliament dropped bill to ban fur & foie gras
Allowed PETA spokesperson Margarita Sachkova, “The Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill undoubtedly represents progress for animals. However,” Sachkova pointed out, “the government is apparently de-prioritizing other animal welfare measures by dropping the promised Animals Abroad Bill, which would seek to ban the sale of fur and foie gras.”
Suggested Oxford University Ph.D. candidate in evolutionary biology Ellen Pasternack in a guest column posted by Unherd.com, “For all our talk of animal welfare, the ancient and widespread practice of killing animals for food is not going anywhere any time soon. And while this is the case, legal proclamations like the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill seem rather toothless and hypocritical. What can it mean to recognize animal sentience if we also condone the slaughter of animals in the billions every year?”
And restrict discussion of animal sentience to only those contexts which do not in any manner inconvenience “religious rites, cultural traditions and regional heritage”?
Was easy to see this scam coming
All of this, incidentally, is more-or-less what ANIMALS 24-7 anticipated on May 21, 2021, after George Eustice, Secretary of State for the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, outlined the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill in a lengthy and detailed addenda to the Queen’s Speech opening the current Parliamentary session.
Lord Peter Goldsmith of Richmond Park followed Eustice’s remarks by introducing “A Bill to make provision for an Animal Sentience Committee with functions relating to the effect of government policy on the welfare of animals as sentient beings,” the original title of the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill.
Pointed out ANIMALS 24-7 at the time, “Forming a committee is a traditional political ploy for avoiding actually taking action.”