Animal rights organizations have praised new legislation reforms that would allow millions of animals to be legally recognized as sentient beings in the United Kingdom.
Last Thursday, the House of Lords finally passed the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill. The bill will be renamed the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Act 2022 after it receives Royal Assent, which is when the Queen formally decides to sign it into law.
The law recognizes that all vertebrates, which include mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and birds, have a spinal column, and are sentient beings. Decapod crustaceans and cephalopods, such as octopuses and lobsters, are also included in the bill.
Sentience is defined as the ability to feel pain, anxiety, annoyance, sorrow, comfort, and joy, among other things. According to a new study, certain invertebrates that were not included in the legislation, such as bees, may have their own emotional experiences.
Policymakers must address the safety, experiences, and welfare of animals as thinking, feeling creatures in the future.
The Animal Welfare (Sentience) Act of 2022 also mandates the establishment of an Animal Sentience Committee to guarantee compliance with the recommendations.
The Public Support
For years, The Better Deal for Animals, a coalition of over 50 top animal welfare groups in the UK, including the RSPCA, PETA, and Humane Society International/UK, has pushed for the measure.
The alliance was founded in 2019 to advocate for the legal acknowledgment of animal consciousness in the United Kingdom. When the UK left the EU last year, the only component of EU regulation that was not implemented was animal sentience.
According to several MPs, the population in the United Kingdom has largely embraced the notion. “Overwhelming public demand for sentience legislation,” according to Conservative MP Jo Churchill (Bury St Edmunds).
“It is no exaggeration to say that I am contacted daily by constituents on one aspect or another of animal welfare,” Labor MP Emma Hardy (Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle) said.
Alesha Dixon, a singer-songwriter who assisted in the creation of a petition with over 100,000 signatures, praised the policy change.
“Animals enrich and improve our lives in so many ways, so it is only right that we give them our full respect in law… From the smallest mouse to the largest whale, our decisions can have a huge impact on the welfare of animals, and I’m thrilled that this new law will now mean all government departments will have to show how they’re giving animals the consideration and protection they deserve,” Dixon said.
Animals Deserve Love
Actress Joanna Lumley, who recently made headlines for speaking out against animal cruelty in the farming industry, was also affected by the new regulations. “Anyone lucky enough to share their life with an animal knows what rich emotional lives they can lead, and how much our actions can affect their wellbeing, for better or worse,” she said.
“I am delighted that this new law will mean that sentient animals, including beautiful sea creatures like lobsters and octopus, will be treated with greater respect and care.”
Compassion in World Farming’s senior policy manager, James West, highlighted that the struggle for improved animal safeguards is far from done.
“The Animal Sentience Committee still has a big job to do… It’s 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,” West said.
The Royal Assent has yet to be scheduled, but Humane Society International anticipates it in the coming weeks.
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