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Press releases

Vets pleased to see animal sentience back on Government’s agenda in Queen’s Speech

British Veterinary Association

3 min read Partner content

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has welcomed proposals set out in today’s (14 October) Queen’s Speech that would see animal sentience finally being embedded in UK legislation.

The Government has pledged that the principle will come into law as part of a package of measures on key animal health and welfare issues.  The action on sentience would mean that animals are recognised in domestic law as sentient beings, and that the welfare of sentient animals is taken into consideration in Government policy-making.

BVA led a long campaign for the principle of animal sentience to be embedded in law, which saw over 1,200 veterinary professionals signing an open letter in support.  However, the progress with embedding the principle stalled with other demands on parliamentary time and the Government is still looking for the right legislative vehicle to introduce it.

Today’s Queen’s Speech also reintroduces the Agriculture Bill, which pledges to reform agricultural policy and introduce schemes that support public goods including animal welfare, and the Immigration Bill.  Other measures include a commitment to gather views on areas including compulsory microchipping of cats, live transportation of animals and keeping primates as pets.

BVA President Daniella Dos Santos, said: “We’re pleased to see animal sentience back on the Government’s agenda and hope that this signifies the final push needed to get this fundamental principle of animal welfare over the line and into law. 

“BVA and others were disappointed that sentience didn’t clear the hurdles to come into legislation ahead of Brexit after such a longstanding and concerted campaign backed by significant public and professional strength of feeling.  In setting out these proposals today, we hope that the Government will now grasp this golden opportunity to make the UK’s status as a global leader on animal welfare resoundingly clear and find the means to bring sentience into law without further delay.  We look forward to reviewing the new proposals in detail to ensure that the new legislation carries weight and is tailored to deliver the best possible protections for all species.

“We’re also encouraged to see that the Agriculture Bill is being reintroduced. BVA will keep up the pressure to ensure that animal health and welfare are seen as public goods in future policy. This is a particularly crucial step for the UK to demonstrate its commitment to high animal welfare standards as it navigates the post-Brexit landscape and negotiates future trade deals.

“BVA also welcomes the reintroduction of the Immigration Bill and will be lobbying for post-study work visas for overseas graduates from UK vet schools and measures to ensure the UK has the veterinary workforce it needs.

“Today’s speech has introduced a package of wide-ranging measures that looks to review or consult on many areas that really matter to our members.  We look forward to feeding in our views and seeing the plans taking shape in the months ahead.”

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