- Five new members will be appointed to form the first-ever Animal Sentience Committee
- Committee’s establishment ensures animal welfare remains at the heart of government policy
- Government also launches consultation on expanding enforcement mechanisms for animal health and welfare offences
The first-ever animal sentience committee was formally launched today with the appointment of five new members, the government has announced (25 May 2023).
The Animal Sentience Committee is fully independent and will support Parliament in assessing how well policy decision-making across Government effectively considers animal welfare. The appointment of the five new members marks the next step in the delivery of a key government manifesto commitment to legislate for sentience and builds on the government’s strong track record on animal welfare.
The government is also launching an eight-week public consultation on introducing penalty notices to bolster enforcement for animal health and welfare offences – meaning those who commit offences such as importing illegal animal products could face fines of up to £5,000.
Giving enforcement bodies the option to issue penalty notices provides a middle-ground enforcement option between the current routes of giving out advice and guidance, and pursuing prosecution. Bridging this gap means a fairer and more consistent approach to protecting animals from harm.
Farming Minister Mark Spencer said:
“In this country, we pride ourselves on our high standards of animal welfare, and we have introduced powerful laws to maintain them.
“We are delivering on our manifesto promises and continue to explore ways to enhance our position as a global leader on animal welfare.”
“The establishment of the Animal Sentience Committee is an important moment for animal welfare in this country.
“Our five new members will collectively bring a range of varied and valuable experience across veterinary and animal welfare, playing a key role in helping to bring these considerations to the forefront of policy decision making.
“We have bold plans to improve animal health and welfare and I look forward to working closely with the Committee to deliver these ambitions.”
The UK has some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world and we are fully committed to delivering our manifesto commitments on animal welfare, building on the action we’ve already taken including increasing animal cruelty sentences, recognising the sentience of animals in law, banning glue traps and extending the Ivory Act.
Alongside these new measures, we are also supporting Private Members’ Bills currently before Parliament banning the import of detached shark fins, banning the import of hunting trophies and banning the advertising and offering for sale here of unacceptably low animal welfare activities abroad.
For more information on the penalty notice consultation and to respond, visit: https://consult.defra.gov.uk/animal-health-and-welfare/penalty-notices-for-ahw-offences-in-england
For more information on the appointments to the Animal Sentience Committee, visit: The Animal Welfare (Sentience) Act 2022 (Commencement) Regulations 2023 (legislation.gov.uk)
The Government has also set out today the next steps on the measures in the Kept Animals Bill – see here for more information: Animal Welfare Statement – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
Action we’ve already delivered on animal welfare since 2010 includes:
- Recognised animal sentience in law and introduced accountability to Parliament for how well all government policy decisions pay due regard to the welfare needs of animals.
- Ramped up enforcement with:
- Increased maximum sentences for animal cruelty from six months to five years’ imprisonment.
- New financial penalty notice powers in addition to other existing penalties under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
- New protections for service animals with ‘Finn’s Law’.
- Raised farm animal welfare:
- Launched the Animal Health and Welfare Pathway with new annual vet visits and grants.
- Implemented a revised welfare at slaughter regime and introduced CCTV in all slaughterhouses.
- Banned traditional battery cages for laying hens, permitted beak trimming via only infra-red technology.
- Raised standards for meat chickens.
- Significantly enhanced companion animal welfare:
- Revamped the local authority licensing regime for commercial pet services including selling, dog breeding, boarding, animal displays.
- Banned the third party puppy and kitten sales with Lucy’s Law.
- Made microchipping compulsory for cats and dogs.
- Introduced offences for horse fly-grazing and abandonment
- Introduced new community order powers to address dog issues
- Provided valuable new protections for wild animals:
- Banned wild animals in travelling circuses.
- Passed the Ivory Act which came into force last year, including one of the toughest bans on elephant ivory sales in the world, and extended it to five further species.
- Gave the police additional powers to tackle hare coursing.
- Banned glue traps.
- Supported the Private Member’s Bill currently before Parliament banning the import of hunting trophies.
- Supported the Private Member’s Bill currently before Parliament banning trade in detached shark fins.
- Supported the Private Member’s Bill currently before Parliament banning the advertising and offering for sale here of unacceptably low animal welfare activities abroad.
The five new members to the animal sentience committee are:
Professor Richard Bennett is a Professor of Agricultural Economics, University of Reading and previously Research Dean for Agriculture and Food. He is chair of the Humane Slaughter Association and has been heavily involved in advising Defra on the economic aspects of animal welfare provision since the mid-1990s.
- Richard Cooper is a practising veterinary surgeon with a passionate interest in the welfare of animals, but more specifically in the continual improvement of farm animal welfare standards at a commercial level.
- Dr Penny Hawkins has thirty years of experience in life science research, practical bioethics and animal welfare, with knowledge of the many different uses of animals by humans and the numerous ethical and welfare issues involved.
- Dr Christine Nicole has experience in veterinary research environments at Bristol and has published over 200 scientific publications. Her work addresses conceptual issues around measuring welfare, the application of epidemiological techniques to assess risk factors for welfare problems, and the evaluation of practical solutions.
- Professor Anna Meredith is the personal chair of Zoological and Conservation Medicine at the (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies and the Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh. She has significant veterinary experience, previously being the Head of Melbourne University’s Veterinary School coupled with extensive governance and governmental advisory experience in the UK and overseas. She has significant experience providing advice to the Government, including being Chair of the Zoo Experts Committee for ten years.
They will join Chair Michael Seals to ensure accountability in government decision-making regarding animal welfare.