A “cavalier” attempt to recognise animal sentience in law

MPs ordered Michael Gove back to the drawing board yesterday over a “cavalier” attempt to recognise animal sentience in law. They said that his vague and ambiguous animal welfare bill would open every government policy to judicial review. 

A cross-party group of MPs applauded the bill’s provisions to increase the maximum punishment for animal cruelty from six months to five years. However, they urged Mr Gove to scrap the first section on animal sentience and start again. The bill would require ministers to “have regard to the welfare needs of animals as sentient beings”, and weigh it against the public interest.

“As drafted, almost any government policy or announcement, or non-policy and non-announcement, will be open to judicial review to determine whether sufficient, but ill-determined ‘regard’ had been given to the welfare needs of animals,” the report by the environment, food and rural affairs (Efra) committee said.

“Swathes of government policy-making will be thrown on to the courts to adjudicate.”