News Giggling Rats Highlight Call For Animal Law



Giggling rats highlight call for animal law
31st December 2020

By Karen Pickwick

The RSPCA is urging the government to make good on its commitment to introduce animal sentience legislation as soon as possible in 2021 – otherwise, it says, animals may no longer have vital legal protections.
From tomorrow (January 1), Brexit will mean European laws recognising the sentience of animals will no longer apply in the UK.

The charity says a wide and growing body of research reveals that many animals, from chicken and lobsters to rats and fish are sentient beings, experiencing negative and positive feelings such as pleasure, joy, pain and distress. 

For example, rats have been found to giggle when tickled, chickens are intelligent, have distinct personalities, use more than 20 different calls and have a sense of time, and crustaceans such as lobsters and crabs respond to the pain of a mild electric shock and have decision-making capabilities to avoid a shock in the future.

RSPCA animal welfare expert Dr Penny Hawkins said:  “Science shows us that many animals are sentient beings, able to experience feelings like pain or pleasure, and they should be protected in law.

“It’s not just mammals and birds that can be considered sentient. We know rats make sounds of pleasure when they are tickled, fish can feel pain, and decapod crustaceans can experience pain and distress.


“The issue of animal sentience has implications for all areas of human-animal interaction; if animals can have feelings, as we know many can, both their physical and mental welfare needs must be taken into account. This is very important with respect to laws, policies and people’s behaviour relating to animals and their welfare.

“The concept of animal sentience must be enshrined in law, so that all government departments would have to consider the impact on the welfare of sentient animals when developing any policies in any area of life. In order to help ensure that the government receives well-informed guidance in its application of a new animal sentience law we are also calling for an expert, independent animal welfare advisory committee.”

Animal sentience is enshrined in EU law, but is the only issue that is not being carried over into UK law by the UK Government as Brexit takes place. 

The RSPCA is launching its new 10-year strategy,  ‘Together for Animal Welfare’, in the New Year, and is calling for vital animal interest to be at the heart of public policy making. The RSPCA would like to see the Westminster government follow Scotland’s lead in forming an expert, independent animal welfare advisory committee.  This will help ensure that the government receives well-informed guidance in its application of a new animal sentience law.