Animal Sentience

18 March 2018

(Summary of animal sentience motion for green party animal protection - GAP - members and local parties) 


This motion, recently floated at the Green Party Spring Conference 2018, recommended an addition to our Animal Rights (AR) Policy. The motion received a unanimous straw poll at the workshop where it was debated, but then was deferred during the final plenary session to make additional changes to the wording. The changes requested will strengthen the final Policy, which will hopefully be discussed and debated at Autumn Conference.


Background    Cow and calf

Animal rights in the UK are currently covered by many laws including The Animal Welfare Act of 2006, The Animals in Scientific Procedures Act 1986 (ASPA), and Article 13 of EU policy which incorporates the Lisbon Treaty. Article 13 declares that animals are sentient beings and that policy development should “pay full regard” to animal welfare. Upon leaving the EU we will lose Article 13 and it is this legislation that the Green Party seeks to replace and strengthen.


The current government produced something called a “New Clause 30” intended to act as a kind of codicil to the Animal Welfare Act 2006 which describes animals as sentient. This clause was rejected in parliament as faulty. A second clause has been drawn up by DEFRA and has recently undergone consultation but has not yet been accepted.


Our proposal (new AR400 Policy)

We enshrine the sentience of animals in new Green Party AR policy and greatly strengthen the stipulations of the Animal Welfare Act 2006. We extend the animals covered to include “all vertebrate species”; including fish, amphibians and reptiles, also farm animals, laboratory animals, young animals, animals used in sport and leisure, wild animals affected by humans, and cephalopod invertebrates (octopus and squid). The precautionary principle is applied for other invertebrates such as decapod crustaceans like crabs and lobsters. We prohibit the psychological suffering of animals (for example boredom, terror, misery or anguish). At present, there are 5 “needs” presented as duties to keepers of animals in the Animal Welfare Act 2006.


We have converted these needs into rights:

  • the right to a suitable environment,
  • the right to a suitable diet,
  • the right to be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns,
  • the right to be housed with, or apart from, other animals according to need.
  • the right to be protected from pain, suffering (including psychological suffering), injury and disease (where possible).


Our motion also advocated updating mention of the Protection of Animals Act 1911 in AR424 and this is the part of the motion that has been deferred so that it retains some of its former, stronger, wording. The changes requested will strengthen the final new AR400 Policy, which will hopefully be accepted at Autumn Conference.


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