Amendment to EU Withdrawal Bill seeks to embed animal sentience in UK law

Lord Trees, alongside Peers from other parties, have proposed an Amendment to the so-called ‘Brexit Bill’ to ensure that existing high animal welfare standards in the UK will be maintained. He has written a short explanatory note to accompany it:

Amendment 40: EU Protocol on animal sentience (Article 13 of the Treaty for the Functioning of the EU)

This Amendment attempts to ensure that existing high animal welfare standards in the UK will be maintained after Brexit. This is a matter of very considerable concern to the public, the media and animal welfare and veterinary organisations. The Amendment would bring into UK law the principle enshrined in the EU Protocol on Animal Sentience contained in Article 13 of the Treaty for the Functioning of the EU (TFEU). This places an obligation on government to pay regard to the welfare of animals (as sentient beings) in the formulation and implementation of public policy. As such, it complements our existing Animal Welfare Act 2006 which places an obligation on the individual keeper of an animal(s) for the welfare of the animal(s) under their care. Since Article 13 is part of a Treaty it has not been embraced automatically in the EU Withdrawal Bill, so that without special measures, such as this Amendment, UK legislation when we leave the EU will NOT be equivalent to that of the remaining EU 27 countries.

Although the Government defeated an Amendment by Caroline Lucas to the EU Withdrawal Bill relating to Article 13 in the House of Commons it faced such a backlash of public and media criticism that it brought out a very brief draft Animal Welfare Bill 2018, part of which seeks to embed the principle of Article 13 into UK law. This Bill was the subject of an inquiry by EFRAcom published at the end of January. Whilst this welcomed the spirit of the Bill it was critical of its brevity and vagueness, and liability to invite unintended consequences. So we have a situation where the Government as well as opposition parties broadly agree about the destination of travel i.e. to embrace in some way the spirit of Article 13, but the means of travel are as yet uncertain.

We have drafted Amendment 40 with care to address the shortcomings of earlier amendments and the draft Animal Welfare Bill 2018, and are very grateful for the advice of Dr Mike Radford, University of Aberdeen, an expert on animal welfare legislation. In particular we have sought to minimise the risk of malicious judicial review, so the Amendment charges Parliament with the exclusive responsibility of holding Ministers to account.

Given the time pressures and the tsunami of legislation which in the coming months will be competing for a finite amount of parliamentary time, adoption of this Amendment – or variations to it – will immediately ensure our legislation with regard to animal welfare is exactly the same after Brexit as it is now. It would provide important support in our negotiations to achieve trade agreements in livestock and livestock products with the EU 27 and the rest of the world, and reassurance to the public that animal welfare will not be compromised by Brexit.

This Amendment is due to debated on Wednesday 25th April around 4-6pm (although times may vary), watch live at parliament.tv/Lords.

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