Thank you to everyone who has emailed me or posted comments on my Facebook page regarding the proposal to amend the EU (Withdrawal Bill) by inserting a New Clause 30 on the transfer into UK law of the EU Protocol on animal sentience in Article 13 of the Lisbon Treaty.
I am committed to the highest standards of animal welfare. I have a track record of supporting animal welfare measures going back nearly two decades. Of course I accept that animals are sentient, can experience pain, and have feelings. There is no doubt whatsoever on that on either side of the House of Commons. During the debate on New Clause 30, Ministers made it very clear that their approach to animal welfare is driven by the recognition that animals are indeed sentient and that the Government is committed to working to reduce the risk of harm to animals, whether on farms, in the home, or in the wild.
But Article 13 is not any kind of panacea. It has been part of EU law for some years and yet in various countries around Europe, they are able to keep farm animals in unspeakably cruel conditions and not break a single EU law. Nor has Article 13 stopped bull fighting, tormenting donkeys at the Peropalo ‘festival’, or throwing goats off a church roof in Spain.
We have much stronger rules on protecting animals in this country than the EU minimum. Only in the last few months the Government has announced moves to toughen up sentences for crimes involving animal cruelty, ban the ivory trade, mandate CCTV in slaughter houses, and introduce the strictest rules in the world on microbeads which harm marine life.
I want further action to be taken. So I have been campaigning for an end to the live export of animals for slaughter, something which EU membership has prevented us from doing up to now. I have also discussed the issues around Article 13 directly with the Secretary of State for the Environment, Michael Gove. Today he has issued a statement. He has reiterated that New Clause 30 was technically flawed and that Withdrawal Bill was not the right vehicle for addressing matters relating to animal sentience. However, he has listened to the views expressed since the vote on New Clause 30 and confirms that the Government will look for an alternative way to reflect the principles underlying Article 13 in UK legislation. I will hold him to that promise.