While anybody who’s ever had a pet knows that animals are sentient beings, the U.K. government is legally recognizing animal sentience for the first time. The new laws are a victory for animals and the people who care about them. Legislation will offer many new protections for furry, finned and feathered U.K. residents.

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“We have long been calling for UK legislation that recognises animals as sentient beings and for sentience to be given due regard when formulating and implementing policy,” said James West, senior policy manager at Compassion in World Farming, as reported by The Guardian.

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Both farm animals and pets are covered, but not wild animals. The laws apply to vertebrates, so pet octopi are out of luck. Some of the issues addressed include banning e-collars (which deliver electric shocks), restricting glue traps, banning people from importing most hunting trophies, banning live animal exports for fattening or slaughtering and keeping primates as pets. New measures also aim to cut down on pet theft.

One measure that will affect many households is mandatory micro-chipping of pet cats. Dogs have been required to be micro-chipped since 2016, and owners face a hefty £500 fine when found in violation. Now the U.K.’s 2.6 million unchipped pet cats need to start booking their appointments. Considering cat theft rose more than 12% last year, microchipping can help reunite lost cats with their owners while also busting scoundrels who decide to abandon their pets.

Some animals could still use a little more help from the law. Animal rights campaigners wanted poultry cages and farrowing crates banned outright, but that hasn’t happened yet. Sows can legally be kept in crates so small they can’t turn around for up to five weeks. This rule is designed to keep piglets safe from being crushed, but sows get stressed and uncomfortable being so confined.

Overall, this is a big step forward. “We are a nation of animal lovers and were the first country in the world to pass animal welfare laws,” said U.K. environment secretary George Eustice, as reported by The Guardian. “As an independent nation, we are now able to go further than ever to build on our excellent track record.”

Via The Guardian, BBC

Lead image via Pixabay