Tory politicians have been up against it this week.
As part of the EU Withdrawal Bill, they voted not to transfer an EU clause, which says animals are sentient, into domestic law post-Brexit.
But the move was rejected by a slim majority of 18 for the Government – only 295 were in favor, with 313 against.
Many believed this vote flew in the face of animal welfare pledges made earlier this year by Environment Secretary Michael Gove.
Gove has repeatedly said he wants to raise animal welfare standards – for example, by introducing CCTV into all English slaughterhouses by 2018.
However, campaigners – including the RSPCA’s Head of Public Affairs David Bowles – called the move ‘a backward step’, adding: “In the EU, we know that the recognition of animals as sentient beings has been effective in improving animal welfare across the region.”
The story has become such a big one – with headlines saying things like ‘Tory MPs Voted That Animals Have No Feelings’, that Gove was forced to put out a statement saying animal sentience will continue to be recognized after Brexit.
In it, he talked about the welfare steps he has implemented (CCTV in English slaughterhouses) and wants to implement (banning live export).
Gove talks a lot about what he says is a strong belief in animal welfare.
In fact, Gove has gone so far as to say he eats a mostly plant-based diet.
Speaking during a Parliamentary debate called Brexit: Environmental and Animal Welfare Standards in July, he addressed his eating habits.
He said: “Before we entered the European Union, we recognized in our own legislation that animals were sentient beings.
“I am an animal; we are all animals, and therefore I care.
“I am predominantly herbivorous, I should add.
“It is an absolutely vital commitment that we have to ensure that all creation is maintained, enhanced and protected.”
If Gove cares about animal welfare as much as he says – and he certainly has started putting legislative measures into practice (CCTV is a good example), then why not align his beliefs with his behavior and go vegan?
As someone who has talked about his environmental achievements, how much more valuable would those achievements be if he were following the most environmentally-friendly, and sustainable diet of all – a plant-based diet?
Yesterday’s budget shows the Government has a lot to do when it comes to understanding environmental issues. The only issues highlighted to tackle planetary crises were a possible tax on single-use plastic and levies on certain diesel cars.
As a Minister – as well as someone with a huge public profile – wouldn’t Michael Gove create waves if he just went vegan?