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MOTION urging Devon County Council to call for animal sentience commitment

Monday, 27 November 2017 2 Comments by Claire

I have submitted a motion urging Devon County Council to call for the government to make a commitment over animal sentience.

Last week saw a media frenzy, with reports circulating that MPs voted that animals are not sentient beings. This was incorrect but the ensuing outrage from ministers only obfuscated the truth of the matter, which was pretty much as bad as the first set of headlines.

It took the British Veterinary Association to give us the truth. Essentially, MPs voted to omit an EU clause as part of the EU Withdrawal Bill, which means the STATE is responsible for animal welfare, not just the KEEPER of the animal, which is UK law.

The vote led to a febrile week on social media, where East Devon’s MP, Hugo Swire and I exchanged several angry tweets, as he attempted to defend the indefensible.

The impact of this vote seems obvious. It could mean that the government finds it easier to do deals with countries with poor animal welfare standards after we leave the European Union.

It could also mean that is able to get away with policy that damages the welfare of animals in some way, without the ability of anyone to challenge this in law.

Michael Gove has, in recent weeks come up with some positive plans for animal welfare (which I support) but these seem at odds with many policies over the past few years which have largely not been good for the environment or wildlife.  And only earlier this year, the Prime Minister suggested that any future Conservative government may resurrect fox hunting. .... not a great track record…

Voting in this way was completely unacceptable and Environment Secretary, Michael Gove should have committed to a timeframe for putting this right straightaway, but instead he opted to put out some PR messages about what the government has been doing in relation to animal welfare issues. He made some unspecified noises about potentially doing more, without saying anything concrete or promising to reinstate that vital clause.

My motion (below) will be on the agenda for the next full council meeting on Thursday 7 December, but is likely to be referred straight to cabinet with a report and returned to full council for a debate in February.

Martin Shaw, Independent councillor for Seaton, has seconded the motion, which is:

This council is disappointed that the government voted to omit an important clause in EU law relating to animal sentience, as part of the Withdrawal Bill.

This council is encouraged by the government’s subsequent clarification on its position relating to sentience and its commitment to enshrining higher animal welfare standards into UK law.

However, this council backs calls from the British Veterinary Association to commit to an appropriate timeframe to reinstate the vital obligation in EU law in Article 13, on the STATE being responsible for animal welfare, in addition to UK law, which states that only the KEEPER of the animal is responsible.


1. At 02:15 pm on 28th Nov Deirdre Hounsom wrote:

Please support Claire’s motion on the 7th December when it comes back to council. If we who live in Devon cannot support animal welfare how can we expect people who live in towns and cities to?

2. At 12:12 am on 29th Nov Vickie Tapp wrote:

I have worked in a Veterinary Practice and seen animals come in, in excruciating pain which is quickly relieved by the skilled vets and nurses- there are many signs they feel pain - such as a human , like a raised heart rate for one. This slows to normal once the pain has been lessened in many cases. how on earth to people not understand this???

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