The recognition that animals are sentient lies at the centre of Vegan Conservatives policy. We believe in animals’ capacity to have subjective experiences and to feel in both positive and negative ways. That is a key reason as to why we have chosen plant-based lifestyles. In our view Ministers must have regard to the welfare needs of animals as sentient beings in formulating and implementing government policy.
Sentience matters to the scope of UK animal welfare law and we believe that economic concerns can be balanced with the application of an animal sentience precautionary principle. A lack of scientific consensus should not be used as a reason to not move forward with reducing and ending negative animal welfare outcomes. It was not long ago that there was a widely-held view that fish do not feel pain, but ground-breaking research discovered that they can. In other mammals we can point to shared neural mechanism but this is not the case for invertebrates and this results in severe uncertainty which does not help us in our ambition to stand as a country with the highest welfare standards.
- Vegan Conservatives are pleased that Government is putting animal sentience into law with the Animal Sentience Bill currently making its way through Parliament. We believe this Government has a real opportunity to set the benchmark and shape a strong, ethical and prosperous export market by eliminating these uncertainties and establishing a clear position on sentience. We need to find ways to manage the ambiguity around some species’ experience of the world around them and be willing to make precautionary attributions of sentience on the basis of evidence that may not be conclusive and which may be limited to small numbers of a species.
- Vegan Conservatives suggests that as invertebrates were not included within the scope of the Animal Welfare Act 2006, that they are now included within the new Bill.
- We would also ask that an acceptance of sentience in law goes side by side with other pieces of legislation in which we seek to improve the welfare of farm animals. This means an end of the use of cages, narrow stalls and over-crowded sheds which restrict natural behaviour through the application of animal welfare outcome measures and relevant funding to support those farmers who do move towards higher standards. It is urgent that farming systems and practices adopt methods which recognise animal sentience to really make a big difference to welfare.