British members of Parliament voted last week to reject the inclusion of animal sentience in the European Union (EU) Withdrawal Bill, citing that animals are sufficiently protected by the United Kingdom’s Animal Welfare Act of 2006. After March 2019, EU legislation—which comprises 80 percent of all animal-welfare laws—will no longer apply in the UK. The vote has sparked outrage among animal-rights organizations working to protect animals in Europe. “Animal sentience is never mentioned in the Animal Welfare Act,” David Bowles, Head of Public Affairs at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), explained to media outlet Farming UK, “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.” Local wildlife photographer Richard Bowler took to Facebook to voice his concern. “It really beggars belief that in this day and age,” Bowler captioned a photograph of a Rosie, a fox he has befriended, “this shower of a government no longer recognizes animals as sentient beings. Science is showing more and more animal intelligence and emotions and yet our government has yet again ignored it. There can only be one reason to deny animal sentient status, and that is to exploit them.”
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