Thank you for contacting me about animal sentience.
The Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill, which has now been introduced to Parliament, places into law the concept that animals are sentient. It also creates a mechanism to place this concept into central government policymaking.
This Bill will create an Animal Sentience Committee producing reports on whether policy decisions have considered the welfare of animals. The relevant Minister must then respond to reports via statements to Parliament. Ministers will need to be ready to show that the needs of animals have been considered in relevant policy decisions.
The Government’s Action Plan for Animal Welfare contains more than forty further reforms. The Government intends to maintain the highest standards of animal welfare.
I recognise your concerns on the issue of Decapod Crustaceans and Cephalopod Molluscs.
There is evidence about the sentience of animals with a backbone and this is reflected in the Government’s Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill. The Bill would give the Secretary of State a power to extend the recognition of sentience to particular invertebrates in future on the basis of evidence.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has commissioned an independent review of the available scientific evidence on sentience in decapod crustaceans, as well as sentience in the class cephalopoda. I understand that the review will report shortly. Ministers will respond to this as part of their ongoing work to protect the welfare needs of animals.
On the wider conservation point, you might also be interested to know that the PM has urged other countries to act to prevent marine species from being lost forever. Since 2019, the UK has led the Global Ocean Alliance promoting a target to protect 30 per cent of the oceans by 2030.
Last year, the Prime Minister confirmed that the UK would expand the area of marine environment it protects to more than 4.3 million sq km as a result of the Government’s Blue Belt Programme.
The programme provides £27 million over five years for marine conservation around UK Overseas Territories.
Tristan da Cunha, funded by the programme, announced the largest fully-protected marine reserve in the Atlantic Ocean, closing more than 90% of its waters to harmful activities like bottom-trawling fishing, sand extraction and deep-sea mining.
Other Overseas Territories who protect their waters with the support of this initiative include Ascension Island, the British Antarctic Territory, British Indian Ocean Territory, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, the Pitcairn Islands and St Helena.
The 4.3 million sq km of protected sea equates to an area 17 times the size of the UK and more than 1% of the Earth’s entire ocean area.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.