Michael Gove insists Tory MPs 'did not vote against the idea animals are sentient'
Michael Gove has defended the Government against claims it is set to throw out key animal rights following a controversial Brexit bill vote.
Earlier this week MPs voted not to write part of an EU treaty recognising animals as "sentient beings" that feel emotion and pain into the EU Withdrawal Bill.
The move prompted anger from opposition MPs and campaigners, however Mr Gove says the decision to reject the amendment was because it was “faulty”.
The Environment Secretary said that by contrast the UK would become a “world leader in the care and protection of animals”, insisting that current EU rules on preventing animal cruelty had “not delivered the progress we want to see”.
“It has been suggested that the vote last week on New Clause 30 of the EU Withdrawal Bill somehow signalled a weakening in the protection of animals - that is wrong,” he said in a statement this morning.
“Voting against the amendment was not a vote against the idea that animals are sentient and feel pain - that is a misconception."
Mr Gove added that the Government’s policies on animal welfare are based on them as “sentient beings” and said ministers were “acting energetically to reduce the risk of harm to animals”.
“The vote against New Clause 30 was the rejection of a faulty amendment, which would not have achieved its stated aims of providing appropriate protection for animals,” he added.
The minister added that the Withdrawal Bill is “not the place to address” animal welfare issues, but that ministers are “considering the right legislative vehicle.”
Theresa May was forced to defend the Government’s position at Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday when pressed on the issue by one of her own MPs.
She said the Government "recognised and respected" that animals are sentient and that they "should be treated accordingly".
"We already have some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world and, as we leave the EU, we should not only maintain but enhance those standards," Mrs May told the Commons.
Animal rights group, Humane Society International welcomed Mr Gove’s clarification and pledge to strengthen rights in the UK after Brexit.
A spokesperson said: "Acknowledging that animals have the capacity to suffer and feel pain is absolutely fundamental to protecting them from harm, and we need a binding imperative enshrined in UK law that will hold government to account, ensuring that animal welfare is fully taken into account in all UK law and policy-making."