The Bill had its report stage and third reading in the Commons on Monday 14 March 2022 and has been passed with amendments. The Bill returned to the House of Lords on 7 April for consideration of Commons amendments in 'ping pong'.
The passage of the Bill is welcomed by the Better Deal for Animals, an alliance of 50 of the UK's leading animal protection organisations, including the RSPCA, Humane Society International UK, Compassion in World Farming, FOUR PAWS UK and Wildlife and Countryside Link, which was formed in 2019 to campaign for reinstating the recognition of animal sentience in UK law. Animal sentience was the only piece of EU legislation that was not transposed when the UK formally left the EU on 1st January 2021.
Alesha Dixon, whose petition secured over 100,000 signatures in the campaign for a sentience Bill back in 2019, said: "Animals enrich and improve our lives in so many ways, so it is only right that we give them our full respect in law. From the smallest mouse to the largest whale, our decisions can have a huge impact on the welfare of animals, and I'm thrilled that this new law will now mean all government departments will have to show how they're giving animals the consideration and protection they deserve."
Joanna Lumley, who signed a letter with 21 other celebrities urging the government to put animal sentience into law, said "Anyone lucky enough to share their life with an animal knows what rich emotional lives they can lead, and how much our actions can affect their wellbeing, for better or worse. I am delighted that this new law will mean that sentient animals, including beautiful sea creatures like lobsters and octopus, will be treated with greater respect and care."
The new law will see the formation of an Animal Sentience Committee which will have the freedom to scrutinise the extent to which any government policy has taken animals' welfare needs into account, and is empowered to publish reports on its findings. The Minister with responsibility for that policy area then has a duty to lay before Parliament a written response to the Committee's reports within three months.
Chris Sherwood, Chief Executive of the RSPCA said:
The Sentience Bill becoming law is an important milestone in ensuring animals have strong legal protections and are recognised as sentient beings who have emotions and feelings. We are pleased that the new Animal Sentience Committee will be able to influence public policy to improve the lives of animals and create a kinder and more compassionate society.