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A NEW government animal welfare Bill that does not cover wild animals was described as a “rushed and haphazard” U-turn by Labour yesterday.
The draft Bill, which would introduce jail sentences of up to five years for those who abuse animals, was published after a row over whether protections relating to animal sentience would be kept in domestic law after Brexit.
Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas had sought an amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill, but MPs voted it down as they argued that such recognition already exists in British law, prompting outrage on social media.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove denied it was a vote against the idea that animals feel pain and argued the amendment could create legal confusion.
The new draft Bill says the government “must have regard to the welfare needs of animals as sentient beings in formulating and implementing government policy.”
It also increases the maximum prison sentence for animal cruelty from six months to five years in England and Wales.
But shadow environment secretary Sue Hayman said it represented a “backtrack on the government’s mistake of not including animal sentience in the EU Withdrawal Bill.”
She added: “There are serious questions about whether this Bill is equivalent to current EU standards, given that it does not appear to cover wild animals, giving this Tory government freedom to pursue their pro-fox-hunting and reckless badger-culling agenda across England.”
Labour is calling for animal sentience to be included as part of the final EU Withdrawal Bill.
RSPCA head of public affairs David Bowles said it was “potentially great news for animals post-Brexit,” adding that the charity awaits further detail about the finalised legislation.
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