If you own a pet––be it a dog, a cat, a fish, a hamster, a snake, a nanoarchaeum equitans––you know that they are aware of feelings and sensations like you are. Unfortunately, as of November 2019, only 32 of 195 countries recognize non-human sentience, and that’s a problem. The good news? About two weeks ago, the UK joined the list.
But don’t get too excited just yet. In granting animals the status of sentience, Parliament has put in place a number of restrictions. For example, wild animals are exempt from this new law. This means that they can still be subject to treatment we label inhumane. The law was made to benefit farm animals and pets, specifically.
Fortunately, on that front it does do plenty good. Sentience bans the use of e-collars, which deliver electric shocks whenever they step out of line, glue traps, hunting trophies, live exports, fattening, and slaughtering. Furthermore, cats must now undergo micro-chipping, which has already been true for dogs since 2016. This largely helps their owners find them when they get lost.
Said UK environment secretary George Eustace, “We are a nation of animal lovers and were the first country in the world to pass animal welfare laws. As an independent nation, we are now able to go further than ever to build on our excellent track record.”