Tag Archives: Article 13

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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A question of Animal Sentience?

This issue has been a subject of interest for us, other Parliamentarians and particularly the British Veterinary Association (BVA) for some time but rejection of the Amendment (New Clause 30) to the Withdrawal Bill in the House of Commons on 15th November has heightened interest. At the Veterinary Policy Research Foundation we have compiled an Animal Sentience Briefing which summarises this fast moving situation.

The Withdrawal Bill seeks to transpose EU regulations into UK law but Article 13 of the Lisbon Treaty  will not automatically become UK law as it is not an EU regulation.  Article 13 has been regarded as important by animal welfare organisations[1] as it puts an onus on EU member states, in formulating policies, to pay full regard to animal welfare requirements since animals are sentient beings. The amendment (New Clause 30) moved by Caroline Lucas MP, proposed that the principle with respect to animal sentience expressed in Article 13 should be included in the Withdrawal Bill. The amendment was rejected with a Government majority of 18.

Although much media coverage focused on this as a disagreement about whether animals were sentient or not, it has since been clarified by the Secretary of State for Defra[2], Michael Gove, that the amendment was voted down as a ‘poorly drafted and inappropriate way’ of delivering the aims of Article 13. Moreover, it is legally arguable that the Animal Welfare Act already implicitly recognises that animals are sentient.

The existing legislation within the Animal Welfare Act places the onus of responsibility for the care of animals on the keepers of those animals. Article 13 imposes duties on the state. This is the real and critical aspect of this debate.

Before and after the 15th November vote (see below) Government ministers have given assurances that they are exploring how the sentience of animals can be best enshrined in UK law.

You may rest assured that the VPRF and a number of MPs particularly associated with the All Party Parliamentary Group on Animal Welfare (APGAW) and outwith Parliament, the BVA are actively working to hold the government to that commitment.

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You will see that in a debate in the House of Lords on Brexit: Agriculture and Brexit: Farm Animal Welfare on 17th October 2017 I asked within my speech a specific question with regard to sentience:

“…with regard to the withdrawal Bill and animal welfare, while the Secretary of State has given some assurances about the important legal principles set out in the EU treaties, can the Minister explain, in writing if necessary, which of the principles of animal sentience and environmental laws will be recognised as general principles under the terms of the withdrawal Bill? Importantly, can he confirm whether they will apply to future government decision-making and judgments in court?” Lord Trees full spoken contribution can be found at: https://goo.gl/fhg4Fd

 

Ministerial response (Lord Gardiner) to Lord Trees question, by letter to Lord Teverson 3/11/17:

“Lord Trees asked which of the principles of animal sentience and environmental laws will be recognised as general principles under the terms of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, and whether they would apply to future government decision-making and judgements in court. The EU (Withdrawal) Bill will convert the existing body of direct EU animal welfare and environmental laws to become UK laws. It will make sure that the same protections are in place in the UK and laws still function effectively after the UK leaves the EU.

The Withdrawal Bill will preserve environmental principles where they are included in existing EU legislation and case law. We recognise the importance of these issues and will listen carefully to the views of Parliament as the Bill progresses. Article 13 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) created a qualified obligation on the EU and EU Member States “to have full regard [to] the welfare of animals as they are sentient being” when formulating and implementing certain EU laws. Existing domestic law such as the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and the various Welfare Codes made under it already protect animals where there is clear scientific evidence that they are capable of experiencing pain and suffering. Its scope is capable of being extended where the science justifies.

We are exploring how the ‘animal sentience’ principle of Article 13 can continue to be reflected in the UK when we leave the EU.”

 

In Parliament on 23rd November 2017, the Secretary of State Michael Gove delivered a Written Ministerial Statement in the Commons which you will find referred to in the briefing document and below [2].

 

Acknowledgement: we are very grateful to Dr. Michael Radford, University of Aberdeen for his expert legal interpretation of this issue.

[1] Compassion in World Farming

https://assets.ciwf.org/media/7431218/note-on-the-absence-of-article-13-tfeu-from-repeal-bill-002.pdf

[2] Written Ministerial Statement, Defra, 23.11.17

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/environment-secretary-confirms-sentience-of-animals-will-continue-to-be-recognised-and-protections-strengthened-when-we-leave-the-eu