Defra published the draft Animal Welfare (Sentencing and Recognition of Sentience) Bill in December 2017. The Bill has two main provisions: to reflect the principle of animal sentience in domestic law and to increase the maximum sentences for animal cruelty tenfold, from six months to five years in England and Wales.
This draft Bill will embed the principle that animals are sentient beings, capable of feeling pain and pleasure. It contains an obligation, directed towards government, to pay regard to the welfare needs of animals when formulating and implementing government policy.
The animal sentience provisions do not apply to policies that have been devolved to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
This draft Bill also increases the maximum penalty for animal welfare offences in the Animal Welfare Act 2006 from six months to five years’ imprisonment.
The EFRA Committee is conducting pre-legislative scrutiny on this Bill and would be interested in your views on the Bill in general, on the scope of the Bill, and in particular on:
- Welfare needs of animals as sentient being:
The Bill requires Ministers to have “regard to the welfare needs of animals as sentient beings in formulating and implementing government policy”. In discharging that duty the draft Bill also states that Ministers of the Crown must “also have regard to matters affecting the public interest.”
We would be interested in your views on any potential conflict that may arise in discharging these two duties.
Definitions within the Bill
The draft Bill does not explicitly define a number of terms, such as:
- ‘welfare needs of animals’.
Do you consider definitions are required for these terms and, if you do so, what definitions should be used?
2. Mode of trial and maximum penalty for certain animal welfare offences
The draft Bill proposes to increase the maximum penalty for the specified animal welfare offences from six months to five years’ imprisonment under Section 7 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
We would like to know your view on the proposed new maximum sentence.