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Last week MPs voted against bringing a clause from EU Protocol on animal sentience into domestic law when the UK leaves the EU in March 2019.

We are extremely concerned and angered by the lack of consideration by MPs to the vast amount of scientific evidence available that confirms that animals are sentient beings.

Clause NC30 was put forward by Caroline Lucas (Co-leader of the Green Party) as an amendment to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill. It stated that the “Obligations and rights contained within the EU Protocol on animal sentience set out in Article 13 of Title II of the Lisbon Treaty shall be recognised and available in domestic law on and after exit day, and shall be enforced and followed accordingly.”

Article 13 states that: “In formulating and implementing the Union’s agriculture, fisheries, transport, internal market, research and technological development and space policies, the Union and the Member States shall, since animals are sentient beings, pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals, while respecting the legislative or administrative provisions and customs of the Member States relating in particular to religious rites, cultural traditions and regional heritage.”

Therefore, a rejection of animals as sentient beings could have a knock-on effect on the formulation or amendments of other government policies regarding the welfare of animals.

MPs voted 295 in favour of including the clause, with 313 against, meaning that over half of the MPs that voted have rejected the recognition that animals are sentient beings, which feel pain and emotion.

During the parliamentary debate on the topic, the Government said that animal sentience is covered by the Animal Welfare Act 2006. However, there is no mention of animal sentience in the act. Not including this clause in domestic law means that MPs are refusing to acknowledge an animal’s capacity to suffer, including the (unnecessary) suffering caused during 35% of all experimental procedures on animals carried out in 2016 that were classed as causing moderate or severe harm.

Not acknowledging animal sentience could be a step backwards from the Government in their commitment to replacing, reducing and refining the use of animals in research. Animal Free Research UK is showing how research that helps us fundamentally understand human biology and disease can and should take place without the need to use any animals.

We will continue to push forward our vision to prevent the suffering of millions of animals annually by replacing the use of animals in research, forever.

We invite you to sign the 38 Degrees Petition online and help reverse this decision.

Update (23/11/2017)

The Environment Secretary has released a statement that confirms sentience of animals will continue to be recognised and protections strengthened when we leave the EU. In his statement he mentions that “Ministers explained on the floor of the house that this Government’s policies on animal welfare are driven by our recognition that animals are indeed sentient beings and we are acting energetically to reduce the risk of harm to animals – whether on farms or in the wild.”

While this is a positive indication of general animal welfare improvement, the statement does not mention any advancement to the welfare of animals used in scientific research.