“Mankind is not the only animal that laughs, cries, thinks, feels, and loves. The sooner we acknowledge that animals are emotional beings, the sooner we will cease destroying animals and embrace them as our brothers and sisters.” ~ A.D. Williams
I know this might be hard to believe, but this week, the government of the United Kingdom voted on whether animals are able to feel pain—and the majority voted that they don’t!
Despite scientific evidence desmonstrating that animals are capable of experiencing pain, and even empathy, members of Parliament still somehow concluded that only humans have awareness and feel pain.
Unfortunately, this legislation leaves it wide open for people to abuse animals and cause them extreme suffering, and to turn a blind eye to their suffering.
The reason the vote took place is that the United Kingdom are due to leave the E.U. on March 29th, 2019. Therefore, if they are not going to adopt E.U. legislation, they must withdraw from the ones they no longer wish to be included in. Currently, the vast majority of the U.K.’s animal legislation comes from the E.U., but sadly the sentience of animals was not one that they are willing to adhere to in the future.
The U.K. now revert back to the Animal Welfare Act of 2006, which only covers the welfare of domesticated animals, and does not recognise animal sentience. Years of campaigning by animal rights activists led to animal sentience being incorporated into E.U. law in 2009, however, this latest vote undoes the work that was done to protect millions of animals in the U.K.
Every single Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) voted against the animal sentience bill, and every Labour and SNP MP voted that animals are sentient creatures, they can feel pain, and they do experience emotions. The latter wanted the European Union legislation to remain in place. Surely, it is no coincidence that the entirety of one party votes one particular way, and the entirety of another party votes in opposition.
David Bowles, head of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ (RSPCA) public affairs explained:
“In the E.U., we know that the recognition of animals as sentient beings has been effective in improving animal welfare across the region. If the U.K. is to achieve the Environment Secretary’s objective of achieving the highest possible animal welfare post-Brexit, it must do the same,” adding, “Animals are not ‘commodities’ and any laws impacting on them needs to take into account their capacity to suffer. They are sentient beings, with feelings and emotions.”
With no legislation protecting the welfare of non-domesticated animals, there is an uncertain and troubling fate ahead for animals used in laboratory tests, farmed animals, and animals vulnerable to hunters.
There is no doubt that all animal lovers will be shaking their head in disbelief at the news, and there will be many outraged that rather than moving forward and enacting legislation to ensure animals are shown compassion, are well-protected, and treated with care, the U.K. is taking giant leaps backwards.
I would hazard a guess that many animal lovers and protectors who voted in favour of Brexit are now wishing they could turn the clock back and vote differently. If they had known legislation like this would be overturned, I cannot imagine that they would still have voted to leave the E.U.
One aspect of this vote that is extremely worrying is the fact that the Conservative adamant to overturn the current ban on fox hunting, with the support of both David Cameron and Theresa May, the previous and current Prime Ministers of the nation.
May previously explained, “As it happens, personally I have always been in favour of fox hunting, and we maintain our commitment.” She added, “We have had a commitment previously as a Conservative party to allow a free vote, and that’s what it would allow, parliament the opportunity to take a decision on this.”
Therefore, with the Conservative party all voting to withdraw from the E.U.’s bill that states that animals are sentient creatures, it is possible that other current laws protecting animals in the U.K. will also be up for debate in the near future.
I personally believe that suggesting animals are not capable of feeling pain or emotions signifies a huge lack of empathy and compassion. I find it deeply disturbing that people in positions of power are so far removed from the animal kingdom that they are willing to publicly declare with a vote that animals do not deserve to be classed as sentient beings.
Rather than seeing animals as individual beings with unique personalities, this suggests an irrational belief that animals are purely here as stock, and that they were placed on this planet solely to serve the whims of humans.
It makes me wonder if any of the members of the Conservative party have ever had a close bond with a pet, or have ever seen the pain and suffering in the eyes of animals that have been abused and mistreated—and if so, how could they possibly determine that animals are incapable of pain or that they have no awareness of what is happening around them.
I am aware that not everyone has the same knowledge of the horrific, real suffering endured by billions of animals each year, as maybe the systematic cruelty that animals experience is far too horrific for many to consider. Others simply may have never been exposed to the truth.
However, all animals are emotional, affectionate, and highly intelligent within their own environment. People only believe them to be unworthy of a life free from pain and suffering because they compare their capacity for living to their own. All animals and creatures deserve to live out their life naturally in their own habitat, far from the horrors that many humans feel they have the given right to subject them to.
“There is no fundamental difference between man and animals in their ability to feel pleasure and pain, happiness, and misery.” ~ Charles Darwin
Author: Alex Myles
Image: Pixabay/Jared Rice
Editor: Travis May
Copy Editor: Callie Rushton
Social Editor: Waylon Lewis