VETS are putting pressure on the UK Government to make good on its promise to enshrine animal sentience in UK law before its departure from the EU.

The British Veterinary Association this week called for swifter action to have the principle recognised in law ahead of Brexit, following concerns that not all of Europe's well established animal welfare legislation would be automatically transferred into national law.

While the UK Government has announced tougher sentences for those convicted of animal cruelty, with the most serious offenders facing up to five years in prison compared to the current six-month maximum, the BVA has been campaigning hard on the sentience issue.

President John Fishwick said: “It is of course encouraging to see that the government is committed to enshrining animal sentience in law before we leave the EU, but with time running out the government must ensure that these words are translated into decisive action.

“Recognising animals as sentient beings sends a strong signal to the global community that the UK continues to be a world leader when it comes to animal welfare. It’s imperative that the government earmarks enough time in an increasingly crowded legislative agenda to bring it into law.”

Soil Association policy officer, Sam Packer, agreed: “We welcome stronger sentences for animal cruelty and are pleased that animal welfare campaigners have been taken seriously by government.

“However, UK law still does not include the vital EU animal sentience principle, posing a significant risk for UK animal welfare post-Brexit.

“We urge the government to now deliver on the commitments made by the Secretary of State by enshrining animal sentience in law to position the UK as a world leader with the highest animal welfare standards," said Mr Packer.

“In order to demonstrate true global leadership on animal welfare, the government should commit to ensure a ‘good life’ for all farm animals, introduce mandatory method of production labelling for meat and dairy, end the overuse of antibiotics in livestock farming, and support the growth of the organic farming sector.”