Animal Sentience

Thank you for contacting me about animal sentience and the #Betterdealforanimals campaign.

As a dog owner and an animal lover I understand the concerns of those worried about animal welfare.  Coming from a farming family I also recognise the concerns of farmers about animal welfare and the future of their industry. 

The Government is committed to making any necessary changes to UK law in a rigorous and comprehensive way to ensure animal sentience is legally recognised once the UK leaves the EU.   This also includes ensuring the UK has an effective means of making sure that animal sentience is reflected in future policy decisions.  The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is currently engaging closely with relevant organisations and authorities to further enhance its policies on this issue. 

Action is being taken to improve animal welfare at home and abroad by increasing maximum sentences for animal cruelty, banning third party sales of puppies, and introducing one of the world's toughest bans on ivory sales.  I believe these very welcome steps demonstrate exactly how seriously this Government takes animal welfare.

Once we have left the EU, we could do even more.  The UK's current position of full harmonisation with EU rules on pet travel means the import of puppies under six months cannot be banned, and the cracking down on puppy smuggling is a challenge.  This is because of the difficulty in accurately identifying underage puppies at the border.  EU rules also restrict our ability to control live animal exports.

However, these laws should also continue to recognise the work farmers do on animal welfare and to maintain food supplies.  There is a risk that well intentioned but poorly drafted proposals could harm efforts at animal welfare rather than build on them. 

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.