ANIMAL WELFARE (SENTIENCE) BILL: DECAPODS AND CEPHALOPODS
I would like to inform honourable Members of the publication of the Review of the Evidence of Sentience in Cephalopod Molluscs and Decapod Crustaceans, and of the Government’s decision to amend the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill in light of its findings. The Government has been clear that its approach to legislating on animal sentience is led by science. The sentience of vertebrates (animals with a spine) has been long established, but evidence concerning the sentience of decapod crustaceans (e.g. crabs, lobsters) and cephalopods (e.g. squid and octopuses) is much newer. Given the volume of recent research on the topic, Defra commissioned the London School of Economics to appraise the evidence in an independent, peer-reviewed literature review. The LSE assessed over 300 pieces of research, which tested numerous species against criteria for sentience based on factors including brain structure, nervous system structure and behavioural responses to stimuli.
The review is publicly available on Science and Research Projects website. Having carefully considered the review’s findings, the Government believes that these invertebrates should be brought into the scope of the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill. Our amendment will extend the Bill’s legal recognition of sentience to these invertebrates. It will enable the Animal Sentience Committee to consider how Ministerial decision-making has given all due regard to their welfare, in the same way that the Animal Sentience Committee may for vertebrates.
Ministers would not be expected to prioritise the welfare of decapod crustaceans and cephalopods over other matters of public interest. It should be noted that the Committee, and the Bill, relates to UK Government policy but excludes matters within the remit of the Devolved Administrations. The amendment does not change existing legal requirements related to the catching, keeping, transporting, killing or consuming decapod crustaceans and cephalopods, and does not introduce any additional burdens on individuals or businesses. I look forward to working with you to update the Bill in line with the scientific evidence, and I hope we can agree that the sentience of these invertebrates should be recognised and afforded all due consideration in Ministerial policy decision making