ANIMAL welfare campaigners will pressure the Scottish Government to strengthen the protection of animals in law, following the UK Government’s official recognition of animals’ sentience.

The Scottish charity OneKind were among the numerous animal welfare organisations which welcomed this week’s passage of the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill, which was described by RSPCA chief executive Chris Sherwood as “an important milestone in ensuring animals have strong legal protections and are recognised as sentient beings who have emotions and feelings.”

The singer Alesha Dixon, whose petition in favour on an animal sentience bill gained over 100,000 signatures in 2019, commented on the bill’s passage: “Animals enrich and improve our lives in so many ways, it is only right that we give them our full respect in law. From the smallest mouse to the largest whale, our decisions can have a huge impact on the welfare of animals, and I’m thrilled that this new law will now mean all government departments will have to show how they’re giving animals the consideration and protection they deserve.”

OneKind highlighted that the new law would now include decapod crustaceans and cephalopods - including crabs, lobsters, octopus and squid – for which OneKind have long campaigned to be included in animal welfare legislation. The recognition of these animals under UK law will mean that their welfare must be considered in the development of future legislation.

At present, cephalopods and decapod crustaceans are not given any legal protections under Scottish law. In June 2020, Scotland’s then-Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment Mairi Gougeon confirmed that the Scottish Government was open to extending legal protections to decapod crustaceans and cephalopods, and advised that the Scottish Government would monitor research on the matter from the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra).

A subsequent report commissioned through the London School of Economics and Political Science, Review of the Evidence of sentience in Cephalopod Molluscs and Decapod Crustaceans, reportedly informed the UK Government’s inclusion of the creatures in the new legislation.

OneKind, which lobbied for their inclusion in the Scottish Government’s Animal Health and Welfare Act 2019 and have continued to press the matter through their Sea Their Suffering campaign, stated on their website that they would use the new UK legislation to “apply pressure to the Scottish Government to follow suit and protect these animals in law.”