United Kingdom

Animal rights activists should be banned from sitting on an animal sentience committee, say Peers 

Anyone who has been involved in animal rights groups should be banned from sitting on a powerful new ‘animal sentience’ committee, peers have said, amid concerns over activists hijacking controversial new legislation.

An amendment specifying the ban is planned for the Animal Welfare Sentience Bill to avoid Government laws being sabotaged by ‘vocal and well-funded animal rights groups’, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.

One of the key measures of the Bill, currently passing through the House of Lords, will be to establish the committee which will have powers to scrutinise all current and past legislation, in all departments.

Anyone who has been involved in animal rights groups should be banned from sitting on a powerful new ‘animal sentience’ committee, peers have said. Protesters are seen in London in 2019

Peers say that in its current form it will have open-ended powers, not limited in scope or timeframe.

Lord Mancroft, who plans to table the amendment to block animal rights activists from sitting on the committee, said last night: ‘You cannot have the lunatics run the asylum.’ 

Critics have warned the Bill is poorly designed and open to abuse. Conservative Party donors have written to Boris Johnson to express concern about the implications of the new law, which follows a Tory Party manifesto promise.

Lord Mancroft said one hypothetical scenario could see activists on the committee overruling Ministry of Defence plans to build a strategic site such as Porton Down (above) on the grounds that it could disturb local vole populations

The committee’s aim would be to scrutinise whether Ministers had paid due regard to their policies’ ‘adverse effect on the welfare of animals as sentient beings’.

MPs, peers, donors and countryside groups have warned that the committee could seek to block infrastructure projects or development that damage areas populated by deer, badgers or squirrels.

Lord Mancroft said one hypothetical scenario could see activists on the committee overruling Ministry of Defence plans to build a strategic site such as Porton Down on the grounds that it could disturb local vole populations – and make all such Government decisions subject to judicial review. 

He warned the committee could also turn its attention to past developments, which saw woodland destruction.

The Bill is designed to legally recognise vertebrate animals as sentient beings, and ensure their needs are taken into consideration across all Government policies.

It will create a committee of animal welfare experts to provide advice on how policies have taken into account the welfare of animals. Government sources said there would be no binding direct new requirement on Ministers to always accept these recommendations.

Defra said: ‘In Scotland, an Animal Sentience Commission provides technical and scientific advice. This Bill introduces a similar mechanism for the UK Government.’

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