This month many constituents contacted me about a petition which recognises animal sentience. You can view the petition here.
These petitions were due to be debated in the UK Parliament on 9 September 2019, but this has been postponed because of the Prime Minister’s unlawful prorogation. I understand the Petitions Committee now intend to schedule a new date as soon as possible.
Animal welfare is a devolved matter in Scotland and I have long called for the Scottish codes of practice on farm animals to be updated.
The Scottish Government has recently published new farm animal welfare guidance for the keeping of chickens, and has committed to similar work for egg-laying hens and other species of livestock. It has also pledged a review of animal health legislation for livestock.
I believe we must seek to end this ‘cage age’ of outdated farming practices that cause animals distress and restrict natural behaviours. I am committed to promoting best practice in cruelty-free animal husbandry, and support ending the use of cages on British farms by 2025, allowing producers time to plan and make necessary changes.
I also agree it is vital that the principle of animal sentience is enshrined in domestic law if the UK leaves the EU. It is therefore welcome that the Scottish Parliament has made clear its support for future Scottish legislation to recognise the welfare requirements of animals as sentient beings.
The Scottish Government has recently announced it is recruiting members to the interim Scottish Animal Welfare Commission, which will provide advice on the welfare of sentient animals. I will follow the work of the Commission very closely.
I believe the law on animal welfare must continue to reflect the latest scientific evidence in relation to animal sentience and how animals experience pain and suffering. I also support a high welfare future for Scottish farming, and a vision for the UK to lead the world with high animal welfare standards in the wild, in farming and for domestic animals.