A new law recently passed by the UK parliament recognises animals as sentient beings, which will form the bedrock of new policies targeting live animal exports, puppy-smuggling, trophy hunters and which animals humans can legally own as pets.
The move to pass the new UK law came amid pressure from environmentalists and animal activists, who said the government needed to do more to stop live animal exports and protect species that are vulnerable to hunters.
The move to recognise animals as sentient beings makes it easier for lawmakers to enforce legislation that poses a risk to animals, with a series of bills expected to be introduced targeting the ivory trade and shark fins, as well as the aforementioned live animal trade.
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The new laws also target the highly lucrative puppy-smuggling industry, as well as imposing a ban on UK residents keeping primates as pets, and banning electric shock collars that are commonly used by some to train dogs.
Upon passing the new law, the UK’s environment secretary George Eustice said the move to recognise animals as sentient beings came as part of the government’s commitment to animal welfare.
“We are a nation of animal lovers and were the first country in the world to pass animal welfare laws,” he said.
“Our action plan for animal welfare will deliver on our manifesto commitment to ban the export of live animal exports for slaughter and fattening, prohibit keeping primates as pets, and bring in new laws to tackle puppy smuggling.”
“As an independent nation, we are now able to go further than ever to build on our excellent track record,” Eustice concluded.
More specifically, the new laws set the stage for a crackdown on puppy smuggling, as well as pet theft, which has become increasingly profitable amid demand for pets during the coronavirus pandemic.
The UK has announced the formation of a new police taskforce that will enforce the new animal welfare laws, on the legal basis that animals have been formally recognised by parliament’s lawmakers as sentient beings.
New UK Law Recognises Animals as Sentient Beings
Animal welfare advocates have in recent years been calling for reform in the poultry and pig farming industries, however the government elected not to include them in the new sweeping laws. Instead, the government says that it will offer farmers incentives to increase the quality of their care for animals, under the farm subsidy package.
James West, who works as the senior policy manager at Compassion in World Farming has told The Guardian that “we have long been calling for UK legislation that recognises animals as sentient beings and for sentience to be given due regard when formulating and implementing policy.”
“We are also delighted the government has confirmed it will legislate for a long-overdue ban on live exports for slaughter and fattening. We have been campaigning for this for decades: it is high time this cruel and unnecessary trade is finally brought to an end,” he said.
“All of these positive announcements must be supported by a comprehensive method of production labelling, and it is essential that the government ensure these much-needed animal welfare improvements are not undermined by future trade agreements,” he said.
The Director of the Humane Society’s Claire Bass has said that the move will lessen the chance of future pandemic outbreaks, improve the UK’s environmental standing and reduce the public’s resistance to antibiotics that are fed to animals to ensure they don’t die in captivity.
“Respect for animal welfare is not only the right thing to do for animals, it will also play a critical role in tackling global environmental and public health challenges such as climate change, antibiotic resistance and pandemic prevention,” she said.