Thanks to Brexit, UK Government Sets Animal Rights Back Decades

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England’s decision to withdraw from the European Union (EU) has been fraught with controversial changes every step of its way. Particularly for animal advocates now, who say that the ruling by a majority of the United Kingdom’s members of parliament that rejected the inclusion of animal sentience essentially negates secretary Michael Gove’s pledge that animal rights would be prioritized during the withdrawal.

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Much of animal welfare legislation that England abides by comes from the EU. England’s withdrawal from the EU leaves it looking at animal welfare issues right by right, and has outraged animal rights and welfare advocates with their recent rejection of an inclusion that claims animals are sentient beings–capable of feeling emotion and pain–in a withdrawal bill.

While Gove has been publicly claiming animal rights are a priority for him, this move by the Members of Parliament would say otherwise, as in March of 2019 when England withdraws, animals will have no protection as sentient creatures. Most of the EU laws that currently relate to animals will simply be brought over automatically to the UK law books, yet naming animals as sentient creatures was deliberately rejected.

In response, some Members of Parliament claim that an animal’s sentience is covered by the Animal Welfare Act of 2006, and the need for specific inclusivity of animals’ sentience was not necessary.

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The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) begs to differ, however, saying that the word ‘sentient’ doesn’t show up even one time in the Act, and the Act doesn’t even cover all animals. Advocates for the rejection of the inclusion say that pets are still covered under the Animal Welfare Act of 2006, but animal rights advocates say it is just a slippery slope. According to them, any animal that is not a pet, particularly those hunted and/or used for food, will be subject to tremendous exploitation, all under the claim that they don’t feel emotion or pain.