Of course animals are sensitive


Do animals have feelings? “Feelings” is a tricky word in this context because it has strong human connotations. It encompasses love, sorrow, joy, regret, wonder, humor, envy, pity, selfishness, pride and much more. It is a mistake to equate human emotions with those of animals.

Still, the short answer to my question is “Yes”. Despite the differences in degree, can we assimilate a lobster to a labrador or a dung beetle to a donkey? – the essential point is that animals are sentient beings. Mammals, in particular, can clearly experience pain and pleasure. And while we have to beware of sentimentality, those of us who know dogs well say they show us love. More arguably, the same can be said about horses. (I refuse to enter into correspondence about cats.)

Since animals can feel pleasure and pain, humans should act on it – taking care not to inflict unnecessary pain. They need to care about animal welfare, not only because high standards will produce better eggs, meat, milk, leather, wool, etc., but also because of a deeper duty to living creatures.

It may therefore appear uncontroversial that the government will present its Animal Welfare Bill (Sentience) to Parliament next week. The bill “provide for the establishment of a committee on animal sensitivity” which will monitor “the effect of government policy on the welfare of animals as sentient beings.”

However, the question always arises whether new legislation is needed. If there is no need, there should be no legislation. The trend, much appreciated by pressure groups, of trying to make new laws to express strong feelings, must be fought. It leads to bad laws and court-led policy.

This is never more true than in the world of animal rights lobby groups. Daniel Greenberg, the prominent parliamentary adviser whose professional work included drafting the 2004 Hunting Act, said last year how “troubled” he had felt: “For the first time in my life. Immediate professional experience, the mechanism of the law was being deployed not to advance a public policy objective … but to inflict on the whole country the personal moral perspective of the approximately 600 citizens who found themselves in the House municipalities at the time.

The Animal Welfare (Sentiments) Bill does not fall into this category. It does not prohibit anything and it is a government bill, not a private member’s bill. But I’m afraid he’s motivated by a similar personal moral perspective. It will emerge later, when it is too late.

Rather as awakened leaders in museums, Oxbridge Colleges and the National Trust now claim that no one before them has ever faced the history of slavery, so animal rights activists suggest that animal sensitivity has never been recognized in our law.

It’s totally false. Two hundred years ago, Parliament passed the Cruel Treatment of Cattle Act. In 1835, the Cruelty to Animals Act followed (64 years before comparable child welfare legislation). The very definition of cruelty to animals involves accepting that they are sensitive. You cannot be cruel to a piece of rock, only to a living being. While the Countryside Alliance briefing on the subject begins incisively, “animal sensibility is often mistakenly taken as a ‘principle’ when it comes to a question of fact. (I must add at this point that I am a member of the Countryside Alliance board of directors, but this article is only my personal perspective.)

So why is animal sensitivity being affirmed in a new bill? The story here is that when we were still in the EU, we were bound by Article 13 of the Lisbon Treaty, which refers to animals as sentient beings, and says that in stated policy areas, Member States should therefore ‘pay the full amount with regard to animal welfare requirements’. The government refused to incorporate this into the Brexit bill, instead promising its own legislation on the subject.

One of the benefits of Brexit is that we no longer have to go through the kind of continental legislation that declares a great general principle and then calls on judges to make what our tradition considers political decisions in light of it. . The British approach is more pragmatic and democratic. Yet in this case, we seem to create and adorn a European-style law ourselves.

The problem with the committee that the new bill allows the secretary of state to create is that it depends entirely on the attitude of its members. While the version of the Lisbon Treaty insisted that animal welfare requirements should be balanced against customs “relating to religious rites, cultural traditions and regional heritage”, there is no no such balance in this law. While the EU has limited its scope to areas clearly involving animals, such as agriculture and fisheries, such restriction does not exist here.

No distinction is made either between human duties towards wild animals and those towards domestic animals. Yet it is surely evident that anyone with a pet or farm animal under their control has a more serious duty of welfare towards that creature than they do towards a fox that kills its chickens or a deer laughing at his roses. Even within the category of wild animals, our law has recognized for centuries the difference between “game” and “vermin”. Could sensibility fanatics ignore all these distinctions?

The new bill certainly allows the committee to do that. He does not insist that the duty to animal sensibility be held in check by any idea of ​​public interest. So if the committee is crammed with representatives from well-organized animal / green rights lobbies, its power of mischief will spread throughout government.

What if, for example, the committee finds that current predator control laws do not take into account “due respect” to the sensitivity of animals? What if he decides to adopt Muslim or Jewish killing rules? What if he included the issue of animals in medical research, or thrown himself into arguments about fishing and angling? Can it assert itself even in foreign policy?

The ground is being laid for the expansion of bureaucratic and unparliamentary power that Brexit is supposed to counter. The consequence will surely be an increasingly important recourse to the courts, with pressure groups using the reports of the commissions as weapons of “law”. The committee could become a Trojan horse for extremism – and the Trojan horse, remember, was not a sentient animal, but a collection of sentient humans using animal disguise to effect capture.

The government must be aware of this but let itself be blackmailed for fear of being labeled “anti-animal”. For the same reason, he will be afraid to go against everything the new committee recommends. As with so many awakened / green problem areas of “rights”, he will find that he has created another piece of the “Blob”.

Supporters of the bill will believe that, to make up a phrase, no animals were harmed during the development of this bill. I’m not so sure. The future of animals, especially on a crowded island like ours, is tied to our ability to build meaningful relationships with them. If animal “rights” prevent us from keeping sheep, cows or pigs for our economic benefit, very few sheep, cows or pigs will be left. If the day comes when bureaucrats decide that putting a bit in a horse’s mouth and a saddle on its back is the filthy subjugation of a sentient being, why breed horses? The government should not go down a path it does not need to go.


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