Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill completes passage through Parliament
8 April 2022
The Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill received Royal Assent and became an Act of Parliament on 28 April 2022.
During its passage through the House of Lords, members agreed to a government amendment to add animals including octopus, squid, crab and lobster to the definition covered by the bill. This followed calls by members across the House at earlier stages to add these protections.
What happened during House of Lords scrutiny of the draft law?
The bill was considered by the House of Lords between 16 June and 13 December 2021, before passing to the House of Commons for its consideration.
Consideration of Commons amendments: Thursday 7 April
Members of the Lords considered Commons amendments (changes) to the bill including ensuring recommendations made by the Animal Sentience Committee respect legislative or administrative provisions and customs relating in particular to religious rites, cultural traditions and regional heritage.
Commons changes were accepted by members without a division (vote).
What's happened so far?
Third reading: Monday 13 December
Third reading is the chance for members to ‘tidy up' a bill, making any small changes to ensure it is effective.
No changes to the wording of the bill were put forward ahead of third reading. Members discussed the progress of the bill through the House at the conclusion of Lords stages.
Report stage: Monday 6 December
The amendments covered a range of subjects, including:
adding cephalopod molluscs (for example, octopus and squid) and decapod crustaceans (for example, crab and lobster) to the definition of 'animal' covered by the bill. This was added as a government amendment following calls by members across the House at earlier stages to add these protections.
ensuring the power to extend the scope of sentience is based on scientific evidence
the membership and role of the proposed Animal Sentience Committee.
Molluscs and crustaceans
Members accepted a government amendment to add animals including octopus, squid, crab and lobster to the definition covered by the bill. This followed calls by members across the House at earlier stages to add these protections.
Religious and cultural traditions
There was one division (vote) on a proposed amendment to the bill.
The vote was on amendment 27, which would require recommendations made by the Animal Sentience Committee to respect religious and cultural traditions.
Members voted 25 in favour and 74 against, so the change was not made.
Committee stage day two: Tuesday 20 July
Committee stage is the first chance to check the bill in detail and make changes.
Members speaking discussed changes on a wide range of subjects, including ruling out past policies from the Animal Sentience Committee's work, medical science, and invertebrates, cephalopods and decapods.
Committee stage day one: Tuesday 6 July
Animal Sentience Committee
Members discussed changes to clarify the committee’s remit and defining the policy boundaries of its work. Some argued there is duplication with the existing Animal Welfare Committee and parliamentary oversight is required.
Members pressed for the committee’s work to be focussed on policy that comes into effect once it is established.
Members highlighted important medical research involving animal research, including for the development of the COVID-19 vaccine, and argued it should be outside the committee’s remit.
Drafting of the bill
Members discussed ways to prevent unintended consequences of the bill’s drafting, saying the government is laying itself open to multiple judicial reviews.
The new committee's membership also came in for scrutiny. Concern was raised about salary costs and the number of its members. Other members discussed who will sit on the committee and their professional expertise.
The government minister said he would be studying what was discussed to reflect on trying to make the bill more workable.
Second reading: Wednesday 16 June
Drafting of the bill
Some members questioned why animal sentience is not defined in the bill, saying legislation must be clearly defined.
Other members said the bill is poorly drafted, leaving the outcomes of it open to Judicial Review and other unintended consequences, and expressed confusion about its purpose.
Animal Sentience Committee
Members said the Animal Sentience Committee (ASC) created by the bill needs to be toughened if it is to fulfil the potential for increased recognition and application of animal sentience principles across government as a whole.
They also pushed to know more about who the members of the ASC will be and said important detail about its role and powers is currently lacking in the bill.
Members argued there is sufficient evidence to indicate that non-vertebrates should be included in the bill and raised serious concern about the treatment of lobsters, crabs, and squid, in the way they have been stored and killed.
Areas in the bill were previously covered by EU law that exempted religious rites, cultural traditions and regional heritage. Members raised the issue of whether the ASC will consider religious slaughter.
The government minister said it would, but that it is for ministers to take into account the wider cultural, religious and health factors and to make decisions.
About the bill
The Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill sets up a new Animal Sentience Committee to report on the effect of government policy decisions on the welfare of animals as sentient beings.
Explore further information
Read background on the bill in the House of Lords Library Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill briefing.
Image: Bithin Raj / Unsplash