After decades of campaigning from animal rights groups, animals will finally be formally recognised as sentient in UK law.
This legal protection will be part of the government’s new ‘Action Plan for Animal Welfare’ which will roll out over the next few years.
Back in 2006, the UK’s Animal Welfare Act legally recognised that animals can feel pain and suffering, but this new sentience marker goes much further.
The Action Plan promises to ensure that government ministers are held accountable to Parliament for the way they take animal welfare into account when making policy decisions.
Moreover, the new legislation will work on reforming areas of significant cruelty such as farrowing crates for pigs and cages for laying hens.
Farrowing crates are one of the cruellest practices in the farming industry, and while British animal welfare standards are some of the highest in the world, 60% of sows in the UK are kept in these for five weeks of motherhood.
The new plan will also benefit wildlife by prohibiting the keeping of primates as pets, cracking down on illegal hare coursing, and restrict the use of glue traps for pest control.
Furthermore, animals abroad will also be better protected with a ban on the import and export of shark fins, the advertisement of low-welfare animal experiences, and the sale of ivory.
While a ban on the import of foie gras has not yet been confirmed, the new plan does outline that it will ‘explore further action’ on the matter.
Too good to be true?
While the Action Plan for Animal Welfare seems to be wholly positive, the devil will be in the detail, and we must be wary of the bold promises being made.
For example, the government already appear to be watering down a ban on trophy hunting imports. This is in spite of 85% of the British public being in favour of such a ban.
Therefore, we must keep a careful eye on the coming legislation, to ensure that the ambitious aims are actually being met with equally robust legal restrictions.