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Scotland to recognise animal sentience

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The Scottish Government is to enshrine a commitment to animal sentience into law

An animal welfare charity has welcomed the Scottish Government’s commitment to creating strong protections for animals after the UK leaves Europe.

OneKind said it was delighted by comments from Mike Russell MSP, the government’s Brexit minister, that showed his commitment to ensuring a duty to consider animal sentience is enshrined in Scots law.

Russell’s comments were made during a Scottish Parliament committee debate on the European Union continuity bill, which was created to enshrine existing EU laws in Scotland after Brexit.

Russell said that the Scottish Government was continuing to consider how best to cement its commitment to the EU environmental and animal welfare principles in light of the UK government’s decision to exit the EU.

Responding to amendments to the bill covering animal sentience and welfare lodged by Colin Smyth MSP, Mark Ruskell MSP and Tavish Scott MSP, Russell stated: “I will work with members to lodge amendments at stage 3 that require us to consider the EU environmental principles and animal sentience.”

Libby Anderson, OneKind’s policy advisor, said: “OneKind is delighted with the minister’s commitment to lodge amendments to the continuity bill that will require the Scottish Government in future to consider animal sentience, as well as environmental principles, when making regulations after Brexit. We are grateful to the MSPs whose probing amendments secured this commitment.

“Scotland does have good animal welfare legislation, albeit with limited scope, but the sentience of animals needs to be more widely and explicitly recognised in both policy and law-making.”

The principle of animal sentience has been recognised by the EU for 20 years and was incorporated into the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) in 2007.

Article 13 of the treaty recognises animals as sentient beings and requires governments, in formulating and implementing policies on agriculture, fisheries, transport, research and technology development, to pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals.

OneKind launched a campaign on animal sentience last year which saw over 8,000 emails sent to MSPs asking them to maintain the animal sentience principle in Scotland after Brexit.

The EU continuity bill is expected to be completed on 21 March.