PRESSURE from anglers has diminished the likelihood of a controversial section of the new Animal Welfare Bill being passed by Parliament.

The Bill seeks to increase the maximum sentences for animal cruelty and also to write into law the concept of animals as ‘sentient beings.’

But experts have warned that this broad definition including all animals could open the door for endless legal challenges by animal rights extremists who want to see angling and other field sports banned.

The Angling Trust has campaigned to amend this draft and encouraged members to copy a letter they devised calling for changes, including the exclusion of fish and fishing from the law, and to send it to their MP.

The Angling Trades Association also threw its own weight behind the campaign.

Dr Bruno Broughton, their chief executive, explained: “Good fish welfare is at the very heart of angling because the sport relies on healthy fish and sustainable fish populations.

“But, as currently drafted, the Bill would be a hostage to fortune and enshrine in law what would amount to animal rights legislation.

“This could be disastrous for millions of citizens and for huge sections of British industry, commerce and recreation, including our own,” he concluded.

But all legislation is considered by a select committee of MPs before being passed into law and this powerful group have listened to the concerns and now come out strongly against this broad definition.

Neil Parish MP, chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs committee, said: “It is important that the Government considers the full implications of a bill before publishing it.

“It has failed to do so in this case. The bill has been rushed and the legislation has suffered as a result.

“I am strongly in favour of the increased sentencing provisions in the Bill, but if the UK wants to set a ‘gold standard’ in animal welfare then the punitive measures for crimes against animals must include a greater range of offences.

“The UK urgently needs a new law focused on animal sentience but this law must be properly thought through and worked out. This legislation is not that,” he added.

Martin Salter, campaigns manager of the Angling Trust, said: “I’m delighted to see that the report from MPs on the Select Committee has come out strongly against the animal sentience section of this poorly drafted Bill that could have opened up angling to legal challenge from animal rights extremists.

“The Government has been told to drop this aspect of bill or re-write it completely.

“This is good news for our sport and follows some intense lobbying by the Angling Trust and other organisations.

“We are not out of the woods yet, and anglers should keep writing to their MPs, but it’s clear that a rethink may be on the cards,” he added.

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