Decapod Crustaceans | March 2019

I have received numerous letters regarding the inclusion of decapod crustaceans in the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill.
The Government is committed to raising animal welfare standards once the United Kingdom has departed from the European Union, with the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill having two main objectives: the recognition of animal sentience in UK domestic law and the incorporation of animal welfare needs when formulating and implementing policies. It has been made clear by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) that there has never been any doubt that animal welfare policies formulated by the Government are grounded in the fact that animals are sentient beings. The UK already has some of the highest standards of animal welfare, with the Government desiring to make such standards even higher.
The draft Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill is a significant improvement of the current EU environmental and animal welfare laws that the UK currently follows. The Bill recognises animal sentience as well as clearly outlining a duty which the state has in protecting and upholding animal welfare. The failure of current European environmental and animal welfare legislation is evident from the fact that cruel and painful practices to animals have failed to be prevented across the European Union. As such, it is paramount that the Government continues to consult and hear the opinions of environmental and animal experts with regard to whether decapod crustaceans should be understood as ‘sentient beings’. It is therefore promising that DEFRA have consulted such experts on whether decapod crustaceans should be protected by British animal welfare legislation following our departure from the European Union.
Britain is in a strong position internationally to uphold and improve animal welfare legislation in order to set an example for the rest of the world. It is my understanding that at present, the Government is aware of research in relation to the sentience of decapod crustaceans and their ability to feel pain. DEFRA are continuing to engage with stakeholders to further refine the Government’s proposals on animal sentience, including which animals are covered by those proposals. Equally, the Farm Animal Welfare Committee, a body which advises DEFRA and the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales, will soon publish advice on the definition of sentience. I will be closely following the developments of the draft Bill in order to ensure that it offers the necessary protections to animals in the UK. I shall also pay particular attention to the conclusions reached by DEFRA whether decapod crustaceans are indeed sentient beings.
March 2019

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