This presentation considers the legal recognition of sentience in the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom (UK). We will consider how EU law recognizes sentience and examine whether this has had any practical impact upon animal protection law. We will also examine the recent attempts to replicate and improve upon EU sentience legislation by the UK post Brexit, including proposed mechanisms to create a political mechanism to ensure that animal interests are considered in the policy- making process. We will consider the debate that has taken place in UK Parliament during the passage of the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill and how these reflect very different attitudes towards animals. We will also consider emerging evidence of an incongruence between public perception of animals and the legal classification of them as property or ‘legal things’ and how this has shaped recent animal protection legislation in the UK.
The presentation also examines examples of sentience legislation from other jurisdictions from around the world and considers how lessons from different jurisdictions might translate to informing proposed sentience legislation in Canada.