Draft Animal Welfare (Sentencing and Recognition of Sentience) Bill Released

The Government has released a draft Animal Welfare (Sentencing and Recognition of Sentience) Bill 2017, which will enshrine animal sentience in UK domestic law and increase animal cruelty sentences to a maximum of five years’ imprisonment in England and Wales.


Section 1 of the draft Bill reads:


Welfare needs of animals as sentient beings

(1) Ministers of the Crown must have regard to the welfare needs of

animals as sentient beings in formulating and implementing

government policy.

(2) In discharging that duty Ministers of the Crown must also have regard

to matters affecting the public interest.

(3) In this section “Ministers of the Crown” has the same meaning as in

the Ministers of the Crown Act 1975.


The Bill is subject to a 7-week consultation, closing 31st January. To find out more and to respond, click here. To read the draft Bill, click here. Read A-law’s legal briefing note on Animal Sentience here.


The Bill was introduced on the same day as a House of Commons debate about Government Policy on Animal Welfare, during which Conservative MP, Zac Goldsmith, made the case for the scope of the new Bill to be expanded to include a range of other welfare improvements. These included ending live exports, introducing new rules around procurement to encourage the highest of standards, prohibiting farrowing crates and enriched cages and outlawing the overuse of antibiotics in animal farming. Goldsmith also called for the badger cull to be halted and for the Government to fulfil its promise to ban the use of wild animals in circuses.


DEFRA minister, Dr Thérèse Coffey MP, responding stated that the Government planned to introduce tighter regulation around dog breeding before the end of next year, and that secondary legislation making CCTV in slaughterhouses mandatory would be laid before Parliament early 2018. Coffey also stated that the Government was also currently considering options to control live exports, and was in the process of preparing revised welfare Codes of Practice for cats, dogs, horses and meat chickens.


Read the full transcript of the debate here.

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