Following the large amount of correspondence and interest I have had from constituents regarding animal sentience, I am delighted that the Government is taking action to write this principle into law, ensuring that their welfare can be protected for decades to come.   The draft Animal Welfare (Sentencing and Recognition of Sentience) Bill has been published today (12 December), setting out that the Government "must have regard to the welfare needs of animals as sentient beings in formulating and implementing government policy". 

The law will also increase the sentences available to the courts in the most severe cases of animal cruelty to up to five years' imprisonment. Subject to consultation, Ministers will legislate to deliver both aims.  

Members of the public can express their views on the proposals, before 31 January, here:

https://consult.defra.gov.uk/animal-health-and-welfare/consultation-on-the-animal-welfare-bill/

This comes as part of a wider programme of reform to cement the UK's position as a global leader on animal welfare. Other recent steps include announcing plans to make CCTV mandatory in all abattoirs to ensure animals are treated humanely at the end of their lives, banning microbeads that can harm marine life, and introducing Europe's most comprehensive ban on the ivory trade to protect the lives of endangered African elephants.  

The draft Bill been strongly welcomed by animal welfare groups such as the RSPCA, whose Head of Public Affairs said:

To include the recognition of animal sentience as well as increasing animal cruelty sentencing to 5 years into the new 2018 Animal Welfare Bill is a very bold and welcome move by the Government.

Even better, the legislation explicitly rejects the kind of exemptions for activities that the European Union deemed acceptable - such as bull-fighting and producing foie gras - which will offer even stronger protection than Article 13 of the EU Treaty could ever do.

We are a nation of animal lovers so I am pleased at the commitment the Government has shown to making Brexit work not just for citizens, but for the animals we love and cherish too.