Sentencing and Sentience in new Animal Welfare Bill

Positive measures to protect animals have been announced by the government today. The Animal Welfare Bill 2018 includes an increase in sentencing for animal abuse from a maximum of six months jail to five years, and also states that animal sentience must be recognised in any future laws.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: "Animals are sentient beings who feel pain and suffering, so we are writing that principle into law and ensuring that we protect their welfare. Our plans will also increase sentences for those who commit the most heinous acts of animal cruelty to five years in jail. We are a nation of animal lovers so we will make Brexit work not just for citizens but for the animals we love and cherish too."

Chris Luffingham, Director of Campaigns at the League Against Cruel Sports, said: “This move is a welcome and huge step forward for animals. When you consider that dog fighting is among the crimes covered by the new sentencing, it’s obvious that six months maximum imprisonment was never enough. We’d hope the government takes one more necessary step to really protect animals, which is the creation of a register of animal abusers so that if someone is banned from keeping animals, it’ll be much, much harder for them to go out and get another pet immediately, which they can do now. We’ve got to stop making it so easy for people to repeatedly harm animals – today is a big step forward, but we can do even more.

“The world is waking up to the fact that animals are fully sentient individuals able to feel pain and suffer, so it’s a no-brainer that our legal system needs to recognise this. We cannot have a situation where fact is being ignored for political reasons – it’s much easier to kill an animal for sport if you convince people the animal didn’t feel pain. We cannot go backwards on this - all animals, whether they be domestic, wild or farm animals, need to be protected from harm – so if we get clarification from the government that this applies to all animals, this step will be very welcome.”

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