The UK's unpopular rejection of animal sentience law will buttress beliefs surrounding human dominance over animals and if left unchallenged, animals will continue to be abused and exploited for food, entertainment, and clothing.
Why is it happening ?
London, UK--The UK government recently rejected an amendment by Caroline Lucas, the joint leader of the Green party, that would have enshrined EU legislation (Lisbon Treaty: article 13 of Title II) that recognizes animals as sentient lifeforms into UK law. After the rejection vote, animal rights groups such as Compassion for World Farming called on Conservative MPs to reverse the vote. Conservative MPs argued that the issue was not whether animals have sentience but about the correct legal procedures for ensuring animal welfare. Michael Gove the UK’s Environment Secretary argued that the Animal Welfare Act of 2006 protected animal sentience.
Why does it matter?
It is clear that the rejection of Mrs. Lucas' amendment is not a rejection of Conservative MPs to recognize animal sentience. However, it is at first an ironic rejection which runs contrary to public support. The EU’s law, article 13 title II, originated during the UK’s EU Council Presidency in 1999; it was later transplanted into the Lisbon Treaty. More worrisome, however, thousands of people, including millennials, signed and shared online petitions rejecting the decision. In fact, animal welfare issues are particularly important to millennials. In 2017, the UK had 54 million pets and over 44% owned some sort of animal. Other demographic research shows millennials spend more money on their pets than on other items. More broadly, however, ignoring the preference of such a big portion of the population can lead to disenfranchisement and complicate the political landscape in the run-up to Brexit.
Furthermore, sufficient amounts of scientific evidence support animal sentience. The UK’s refusal to transplant the EU law into UK law places the UK socially behind its EU counterparts, Commonwealth members like New Zealand, among others. What's more, the rejection seems to buttress feelings that run counter to established science. If beliefs surrounding human dominance over animals are left unchallenged, millions of animals will continue to be abused and exploited for food, entertainment, and clothing. Mrs Luca’s amendment is a unique chance to catalyse the conversation surrounding animal welfare and in turn, advocate for a more compassionate and harmonious relationship between humans and animals.
What can you do about it?
At a personal and organisational level, animal rights and environmental campaign groups must capitalize on Mrs. Lucas' amendment’s strong public support. They must improve their social and political advocacy for animal rights and welfare-- lobbying more directly to the UK government. Millennials can bolster animal rights group’s efforts by donating or volunteering; Animal Charity Evaluators is a good place to start if you want to get involved. Likewise, millennials can keep their government’s accountable by writing to their political representatives about the issues of animal sentience and animal rights. In this case, the public pressure paid off. Since the UK’s public outcry, Mr. Gove announced the possibility of tougher animal welfare laws including a ban on the live transport of animals and a crackdown on puppy smuggling.
Naomi Southwell briefs from Manchester, UK. She has a Bachelor of Arts in History from the University of Oxford.