A petition has been launched to reverse the decision to exclude animal sentience from the EU withdrawal bill, receiving over 300,000 signatures at the time of writing.
As we previously reported, MPs voted to reject the inclusion of animals 'feeling pain and emotion' into the EU Withdrawal Bill earlier this week. Currently, the majority of animal welfare legislation in the UK comes from Europe.
The vote on Monday came after Green MP Caroline Lucas submitted an amendment clause (NC30) into the Brexit Bill, supported by Labour MPs, which would have transferred the EU Protocol on animal sentience, or respect and care, set out in Article 13 of Title II of the Lisbon Treaty into UK law.
The result of the vote drew widespread criticism and inspired Dave Babb to set up the petition. In less than a week it has attracted more than 300,000 supporters.
Introducing the online petition, Mr Babb wrote: "I feel the decision of the UK Government, to exclude the status of animals, as sentient beings, in the EU withdrawal bill, is a terrible blow for animal welfare, and I would urge them to reconsider immediately."
He continued: "Animals have long held the status of being sentient beings in the UK, through legislation created in the EU.
"This means they are recognised as being capable of feeling emotions such as joy and compassion, but also fear, suffering and terror.
"The vote in Parliament, narrowly won by the Government, removes this status from all animals in the UK, and is a massive blow for the welfare of wildlife, pets and livestock alike."
Following the result on Monday, Caroline Lucas said: "The Government's refusal to accept this amendment is simply absurd - and their continued insistence that sentience is covered in Animal Welfare legislation is wrong.
"Britain been forward thinking animal welfare over the years, which is why ditching this provision would be such a backwards step. The UK Government led on introducing this EU protocol in the first place, and it's only an obsession with refusing changes to the EU Withdrawal Bill that's stopping Ministers adopting this amendment now.
"The animal sentience protocol is important because it is an instruction to future governments when creating legislation - and it should be the basis of future lawmaking on animal welfare in Britain."
However, Michael Gove, the environment secretary, has promised to make 'any necessary changes' to UK law to recognise that animals can feel pain.
"The prime minister has made clear that we will strengthen our animal welfare rules," Mr Gove said in a statement.
"This government will ensure that any necessary changes required to UK law are made in a rigorous and comprehensive way to ensure animal sentience is recognised after we leave the EU.
"The withdrawal bill is not the right place to address this, however we are considering the right legislative vehicle."
Words: Mischa Pearlman
Featured Image Credit: PA Images