Recently the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill had it second reading in the House of Commons, giving MPs their first chance to debate it following previous debates in the House of Lords.

If it becomes law this Bill will formally recognise the sentience of other animals and create a committee to scrutinise whether the UK Government is considering animal welfare in its policy making.

Those of you on our mailing list may remember that we emailed you recently asking you to contact your MP and ask them to support the Bill. If you did – thank you! This type of action really does make a difference, as Kerry McCarthy MP noted:

"I thank the campaigners and members of the public who have emailed MPs, signed petitions and kept pressing, because that is why the Government have finally produced this Bill."

We have been concerned about this issue ever since the decision was made for the UK to leave the EU, and to not carry over the important law requiring governments to consider animal welfare when making decisions. We explained the importance of this in a blog at the time. So, it is wonderful to see politicians and members of the public getting behind this Bill.

Deirdre Brock, MP, mentioned work already underway in Scotland, via the Scottish Animal Welfare Commission, formed in 2020,

"which is an independent body of leading animal welfare experts responsible for developing expert recommendations on issues relating to animal welfare and sentience. The Bill seeks to replicate its evidence-based policymaking success and expert-driven approach."

Octopus on beach

The most significant amendment to the Bill in the House of Lords was the addition of decapod crustaceans (such as crabs and lobsters) and cephalopods (such as octopus) to those animals considered sentient. We had been calling for this in our #SeaTheirSuffering campaign, so were delighted, and are now equally glad that MPs also support this inclusion. This is all the more urgent with the upcoming opening of the world’s first commercial octopus farm, which is likely to be terrible for the animals involved.

We agree with Emma Hardy MP, who said:

It is worth reminding Members that we are animals, too. We are only different by degree, and more and more scientific research is showing us how slim that difference of degree is.

The Bill is not perfect, and various MPs pointed out some of its weaknesses (there were also some MPs opposed to the Bill entirely). Nonetheless, it is an important step in the right direction which we will continue to support.