13 / 11 / 2023
Animal Sentience in Law
On the 7th of April 2022 the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Act 2022 became law in the UK. It was hailed at the time as a monumental milestone in recognising the sentience of animals and their capacity to suffer in law. In particular, final amendments to the bill were made in light of scientific evidence showing invertebrate animals such as lobsters, crabs, shrimps, octopus, cuttlefish and squid, to be sentient.
What does this mean?
The new legislation now requires that in the creation or implementation of any new policies, the government has ‘all due regard’ to the ways in which these new policies have an adverse effect on any animal species recognised as sentient in the Animal Welfare (sentience) Act 2022.
That is great – right?
Yes, in theory. But today it’s having no impact on existing legislation to help regulate the use of animals in farming, food production, or scientific research. It also currently gives no further protections to these invertebrate species under the duty of care required by the Animal Welfare Act 2006. So despite the creation of the Act, invertebrates currently have no greater legal protection in any sense.
The onus is on policymakers to review and update other existing legislation and guidance to ensure practices evolve to limit suffering. This is currently under review for legislation to protect animals used in research. We continue to urge the Government to make these changes to ensure the use of these sentient animals in research is regulated and ensure monitoring and protections are put in place to prevent and limit suffering.