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UK wants to legally recognise that animals have feelings4 min read

May 20, 2021 3 min read


UK wants to legally recognise that animals have feelings4 min read

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Last week saw progress in the animal rights and protection movements, with the United Kingdom (UK) creating new legal recognitions for animals.

Credit: Giphy

Which animals will be considered sentient?

Both farm animals and pets are covered, but not wild animals. The laws apply to vertebrates, so pet octopi are out of luck!

The government has announced that animals are now to be legally recognised as sentient beings. Sentient? What does that mean, you ask? Animal sentience refers to the ability of animals to feel and experience emotions such as joy, pleasure, pain and fear.

Credit: Giphy

Generally, it is accepted that only humans are sentient, but over time, this mindset has shifted to acknowledging that other living beings are also capable of experiencing different emotions.

This law is part of new reforms being made under the government’s ‘Action for Animal Welfare’. Some proposals include banning the shipment of live animals, bans against shark fins and ivory, as well as the import of hunting trophies from endangered animals.

By enshrining sentience in domestic law in this way, any new legislation will have to take into account the fact that animals can experience feelings such as pain or joy

UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Animal Welfare Minister Lord Goldsmith said that this legislation “is just the first step in our flagship Action Plan for Animal Welfare, which will further transform the lives of animals in this country.”

Owliver’s Obscure Observations

This is not the first time the UK has created laws to help animals. The UK was the first country in the world to pass a legislation to protect animals in 1822. It also passed the Cruel Treatment of Cattle Act and later the landmark Protection of Animals Act in 1911. In fact, the UK had animal protection laws 64 years before child protection laws! 

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The action plan outlines several measures involving international trade restrictions, including rules against puppy smuggling and imported fur. There will also be a crackdown on advertising for services that don’t align with the country’s animal welfare values. This is intended to stop tourists from visiting attractions that involve animals being treated properly.

Other suggested policies include bans on certain shock collars and pet microchipping. There will also be new food labeling guidelines meant to enable consumers to make more informed choices. The report also mentions that the government will conduct further investigation on the use of crates for pigs and poultry cages.

Do animals laugh?

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According to a study published in the journal Bioacoustics, many animals produce sounds during play that are unique to that pleasant social interaction. This, researchers say, is a close analogue of human laughter. Recently, scientists investigated play vocalisation to see how common it was among animals. The team identified 65 species that “laughed” while playing – most were mammals, but a few bird species demonstrated playful laughter too. This new analysis could help scientists to trace the evolutionary origins of human laughter, according to the study.

Sources: Jurist.org, The Guardian, Live Science