HomeWeatherConservative MPs raise concerns over move to enshrine animal feelings in law

Conservative MPs raise concerns over move to enshrine animal feelings in law

Boris Johnson has been accused by a Tory MP of “driving a coach and horses straight at our core supporters” via new legislation to recognise that animals have feelings.

The Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill recognises that animals are sentient beings, able to feel pain and joy, and creates a body to ensure UK ministers take account of their welfare needs when drawing up and implementing policy.

Environment Secretary George Eustice told MPs that ministers will continue to take the decisions and explained: “This is a succinct Bill that offers clarity and avoids creating a wide avenue for judicial review of Government decisions, but which ensures animal welfare is properly considered as Government’s formulate policy.”

But Conservative MPs representing rural constituencies raised concerns over the proposals, which was extended while going through the House of Lords to cover octopuses, crabs and lobsters after a study found they had feelings.

Environment Secretary George Eustice (Aaron Chown/PA)

(PA Wire)

Conservative MP Richard Drax told the Commons: “This is a bad Bill, an unnecessary Bill, and a Trojan horse for those who have no understanding and sadly in some cases despise the countryside and all that goes on in it.”

The MP for South Dorset said “why on earth a Conservative Government is driving a coach and horses straight at our core supporters, and many beyond, is quite beyond me”.

Mr Drax said “we left the EU in order to pass our own laws” but that the Bill “is even more intrusive than the former legislation under EU law”.

He added the Bill would be a “magnet for judicial review” and warned about a committee it would establish, saying: “I and many others fear that those with different agendas, often partisan and politically motivated, will hijack this committee and its role to attack activities like shooting and fishing.”

Conservative and farmer Sir Bill Wiggin (North Herefordshire) asked: “What happened to the bonfire of quangos?

“Defra has already created a quango in the Environment Act and now they think they need another one.

“Not so much a bonfire of quangos, but a breeding ground for quangos.”

A man walks his dogs along a beach (Joe Giddens/PA)

(PA Wire)

He added: “That is why unnecessary tokenism and gestures might feel nice, but they are a missed opportunity.

“This Bill is one of the best examples of that.

“A bill glittering with good intentions, just like the road to hell, but absolutely and completely unnecessary.”

Conservative MP Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (The Cotswolds) voiced fears over the Bill giving animal rights’ groups “another weapon” to “damage both government and those who live and work with animals”.

Jonathan Djanogly, a Conservative former minister, warned the Bill is “fraught with problems” and could be used to prejudice minority religious practices, as well as allow for more judicial review challenges against game shooting.

The MP for Huntingdon said he is “confused about what we are trying to do here”, adding “nothing in this Bill and no one can either define animal sentience nor can they say how it is measured”.

For Labour, shadow environment secretary Jim McMahon offered his party’s support for the measures but suggested the Government could have used them as an opportunity to address animal welfare concerns in relation to trade deals.

The Bill received an unopposed second reading and will undergo further scrutiny at a later date.

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