QCA respond to animal welfare bill

Quaker Concern for Animals has responded to a consultation on the draft Animal Welfare (Sentencing and Recognition of Sentience) Bill

Quaker Concern for Animals (QCA) has responded to the government consultation for its draft Animal Welfare (Sentencing and Recognition of Sentience) Bill, which ended on 31 January. The draft was created following recent public outrage after MPs voted to reject an EU clause which says animals are sentient in domestic law following Brexit.

Thomas Bonneville, of QCA, told the Friend: ‘We are in a time of great risk and opportunity as many animal protection laws are EU laws, so we need to be extra vigilant about maintaining standards.

‘The seven-week consultation asked for feedback on particular points, for example, how should we define “animal” or “sentience”? We think it is important that the definitions are based on the best and most up-to-date scientific research in that field.

‘In the last two decades we have made great strides in our understanding of animals, and we don’t want animals who are sentient to be defined as “not sentient”.

‘We’re also keen that no definition they adopt presumes to pre-empt or preclude fuller scientific discoveries in the animal research field.’

Thomas Bonneville revealed to the Friend that the QCA’s proposed definition for ‘sentience’ sought to ‘include all vertebrae animals, as well as cephalopod molluscs (such as octopus, squid and cuttlefish), and decapod crustaceans (including crayfish, lobster and shrimps) which we now know do have an inner life’.

According to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA): ‘The proposed legislation states that animals are sentient beings and increases the maximum penalty for animal welfare cruelty offences from six months to five years imprisonment in England and Wales.’

The plans follow a number of recent cases where courts have said they would have handed down longer sentences had they been available, including a case last year when a man trained dogs to ruthlessly torture other animals, including trapping a fox and a terrier dog in a cage to brutally attack each other.

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