Wed, 06 Dec 2017
NEWBURY MP Richard Benyon has angrily denied that a recent Commons vote means animals are not sentient life forms capable of suffering.
And he blasted critics for propagating “fake news”.
However, his stance was branded “shocking” by the RSPCA.
And West Berkshire Green Party spokesman David Marsh taunted him for a lack of “moral fibre”.
Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas had proposed the amendment to the European Union (withdrawal) bill, which aimed to transfer the EU protocol on animal sentience into UK law.
It was defeated by 313 votes to 295 on November 15.
A social media campaign condemning those MPs, including Mr Benyon, who voted it down, went viral and was championed by television personalities including Ben Fogle and Sue Perkins.
The former has since apologised.
Meanwhile, environment secretary Michael Gove issued the following 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.”
RSPCA spokesman David Bowles said in a statement: “It’s shocking that MPs have given the thumbs-down to incorporating animal sentience into post-Brexit UK law.
“This is truly a backward step for animal welfare.
“Animal sentience is never mentioned in the Animal Welfare Act and, crucially, only domestic animals are really covered by the provisions of the Act anyway and animals in the wild and laboratories are expressly exempt.
“It is simply wrong for the Government to claim that the Act protects animal sentience.”
Mr Benyon, who was named as one of those who voted against the amendment, said: “It’s ridiculous that some people think animal welfare standards in Europe are some sort of golden Utopia when you have bull fighting, foie gras and donkeys being thrown off towers.
“It’s fake news.
“Britain has much higher welfare standards.
“Sentience is written into our Animal Welfare Act and will be underpinned by new legislation in a belt-and-braces framework.
“This was a ‘click’ campaign which proves a lie has got half way round the world before the truth has got its boots on.”
Mr Marsh said: “No one is suggesting Richard Benyon doesn’t believe animals are sentient and capable of feeling pain.
“But the amendment had huge support from every animal charity you can think of.
“This would have safeguarded animals and he should have had the decency and moral fibre to vote for it, despite it having being proposed by a rival party.”