After years of campaigning and inexcusable delay, this week we finally debated the Animal Sentience Bill in Parliament. This will recognise in law that animals are capable of experiencing pain and having feelings, and will establish a Committee to look at whether new legislation will have adverse effects on them.
I wholeheartedly support this Bill, but also recognise that it is just a starting point when it comes to animal welfare. It is one thing to recognise the feelings of animals, but another to act on this knowledge and actively improve their lives for the better.
In my speech I paid tribute to organisations like Viva! and Animal Equality UK. Through their undercover reporting they have exposed many cases of shocking cruelty towards animals on farms and in slaughterhouses. The Government likes to congratulate itself on Britain being ‘the best country in the world’ for animal welfare, but there are no grounds for complacency.
During the debate we saw a series of Tory MPs stand up to oppose their own Government, and speak in defence of the hunting and shooting lobbies. This was disappointing but, with Labour support, I hope the Government will get this Bill into law soon and, importantly, make sure that meaningful action to truly protect animals is taken as a result.