UK vote didn’t deny animal sentience but could harm welfare

Campaigners say a recent UK vote will deny sentience to animals, but the reality is rather different. The real issue is what happens to animal welfare post-Brexit

“MPs quietly voted ‘that animals cannot feel pain or emotions’,” claimed one headline, after the UK’s parliament voted against an amendment on animal sentience.

That has led to widespread outrage on social media, and more than one petition. But MPs did not really vote that animals cannot feel pain and suffering. Rather, they voted against the UK government having a duty to take this into account post-Brexit.

All members of the European Union signed the Lisbon treaty, which came into force in 2009. Article 13 of the treaty states that “since animals are sentient beings, [countries must] pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals”.

Sentience is the ability to feel pain and fear, as well as joy and happiness. Scientifically, there is now an overwhelming amount of research to suggest that many animals are sentient. “The weight of