Thank you for contacting me recently about the legal status of animals and the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, also known as 'the Repeal Bill'.
I believe we have a moral duty to treat the animals we share our planet with in a humane and compassionate way, and I agree that leaving the EU must not lead to any watering down of existing standards on animal welfare.
As you know, Article 13 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union protects the legal status of animals as sentient beings. Despite indicating that the Repeal Bill would incorporate Article 13, the Bill as currently drafted, will not ensure its preservation in UK law. I share your concern about this.
In the House of Commons on 15 November, I supported New Clause 30 which sought to retain the rights and obligations contained in Article 13. I also support Amendment 350, which has been tabled by the Official Opposition and would ensure that the Government is held to the animal welfare standards enshrined in Article 13 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
Unfortunately, when New Clause 30 was pressed to a vote on 15 November, it was rejected by the Government and defeated. The Minister argued that animals are already recognised as sentient beings under domestic law and that this will continue to be the case. The Government has since said that it will ensure any necessary changes required to UK law are made to ensure animal sentience is recognised after we leave the EU.
I believe this is inadequate and that the Government should reverse its decision and amend the Repeal Bill without further delay. I will therefore support Amendment 350 if it is pushed to a vote during the Bill's remaining stages.
I also intend to support amendments that aim to ensure there is no weakening of EU-derived rights - including on animal welfare standards - because of Brexit; and I can assure you that I will continue to press for existing standards on animal welfare to be transposed into British law and strengthened where necessary.
Thank you once again for contacting me about this important issue.
Derek Twigg MP