New UK law recognizes animals as sentient beings with feelings

Animal protection groups and celebrities such as Joanna Lumley and Alesha Dixon are celebrating after the final hurdle has passed in a new law giving animals increased protection.

The new law will be known as the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Act 2022 and was welcomed by an alliance of 50 of the UK’s leading animal organizations including the RSPCA and Humane Society International an

Alesha Dixon, whose petition secured over 100,000 signatures in the campaign for a sentience Bill back in 2019, said: 

“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.”

Joanna Lumley, who signed a letter with 21 other celebrities urging government to put animal sentience into law, said:

“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. 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.”

The new law will see the formation of an Animal Sentience Committee which will have the freedom to scrutinise the extent to which any government policy has taken animals’ welfare needs into account, and is empowered to publish reports on its findings. The Minister with responsibility for that policy area then has a duty to lay before Parliament a written response to the Committee’s reports within three months.

Claire Bass, executive director of Humane Society International/UK said

“It’s exactly 200 years since the UK’s first animal welfare law, so the Sentience Act is a fantastic anniversary gift to animals. This legislation has enormous public support, and we’re delighted and relieved to see it complete its journey through Parliament. We look forward to the new Animal Sentience Committee being able to shine an expert spotlight on opportunities for the government to improve the welfare of all animals.”

Chris Sherwood, Chief Executive of the RSPCA said: 

“The Sentience Bill becoming law is an important milestone in ensuring animals have strong legal protections and are recognized as sentient beings who have emotions and feelings. We are pleased that the new Animal Sentience Committee will be able to influence public policy to improve the lives of animals and create a kinder and more compassionate society.”

Welcoming the law, campaigners stressed that the new Animal Sentience Committee would have a huge scope of policies it could scrutinize, and will need to prioritize its limited resources carefully.

James West, Senior Policy Manager at  Compassion in World Farming, said: 

“We welcome the final passage of the Bill that will once again enshrine animal sentience in UK law. However, the Animal Sentience Committee still has a big job to do! It’s critical that they prioritise 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.”

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Peg Fong is also in recovery from newspapers

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