A bill that could “curtail country sports” has been mauled in the House of Lords as peers attacked it as ‘unnecessary’ ‘ill conceived’ and ‘anthropomorphic’.
The Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill was introduced in the Queen’s Speech in May. The seemingly innocuous bill, which creates a committee to review the effect of legislation and polices “on the welfare of animals as sentient beings”, has prompted concern that it could be misused to disrupt activities including shooting, fishing and farming.
Conservative former cabinet minister Micheal Forsyth, Lord Forsyth of Drumlean said “I have never seen a more badly drafted Bill—which has left me wondering what on earth its purpose is.” Lord Forsyth went on to question what sentience really meant: “To me, sentience means ability to feel pain—but some of the advocates of the Bill are talking about emotions and discussing animals in anthropomorphic terms.”
Labour politician Baroness Mallalieu described the bill as “gesture politics, which I fear is some little part of the motivation of this Bill, to enable the Government to say, ‘This is what we did for animals’.
She compared the new bill to the Hunting Act which she said “brought no benefit at all to the fox population—quite the contrary. A method of control that was selective, with a closed breeding season, and left no wounded, was replaced with snaring and night shooting… which killed and wounded far more.”
Concerned about the possibility of the bill being used to attack country sports, BASC and the Angling trust agreed to lobby together on behalf of the country’s three million anglers and shooters.
Martin Salter, head of policy at the Angling Trust, comm: “The open-ended nature of the current Bill clearly leaves it vulnerable to mission creep, which will be exploited by those wishing to ban or severely curtail country sports such as fishing and shooting.
“Further clarification is required and that message has been made loud and clear to parliamentarians,” he added.