Oliver Letwin MP Explains Animal Sentience Vote

Dear Mr Shrubb,

Thank you for your email of yesterday evening. I am afraid you have been misled about the current situation. I am perfectly clear that animals are sentient. That is a matter of fact – and no Parliament could make it otherwise.

The question that has arisen is whether some step needs to be taken to introduce that fact into UK law following Brexit. I was initially attracted by the idea – until I became persuaded, by looking at the current UK laws, that the concept is already fully embedded in our law. The Animal Welfare Act is completely based on the presumption and acknowledgement that animals are sentient. One could not, evidently, have a Welfare Act for non-sentient entities such as rocks or flowers. One cannot talk in law about the welfare of such objects, precisely because they are not sentient.

By contrast, the fact that there is an Animal Welfare Act establishes beyond doubt that UK law is based upon presumption and acknowledgement that animals are sentient. Accordingly, there is absolutely no point in passing some new law to say the same thing all over again following Brexit.

With best wishes,

Yours sincerely, Oliver Letwin


The Animal Welfare Act 2006 doesn’t specifically mention sentience, only animals in distress. Which is why @CarolineLucas wanted to incorporate article 13 of title II of the Lisbon treaty into UK law.