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Friday 24 November: Flooding and animal sentience

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Flooding in the North of England

Teams put up flood defences in the north of England.

There has been media coverage today following flooding in parts of Cumbria and Lancashire, which includes comments questioning the government’s commitment to strengthening flood defences in Cumbria.

To confirm, Defra is continuing to invest £72m of government funding in Cumbria to better protect at least 4,300 homes from flooding by 2021 and £58m of this is new funding agreed since December 2015.

Since flooding of 2015/16 in Cumbria we have:

• Completed work on flood schemes in Appleby, Keswick, Ulverston and Threlkeld protecting hundreds of homes.

• Spent £1 million to maintain existing defences including 50km of walls and embankments.

• Removed 70,000 tonnes of gravel from rivers.

• Began work on rebuilding a 140m stretch of wall in Glenridding to act as a flood defence.

A Defra Spokesperson said:

Our thoughts are with those affected by flooding and the Environment Agency has teams working through the night to protect thousands of properties.

Since 2010 we have invested almost £42m to protect against flood damage in Cumbria and we will invest another £53m by 2021.

In the last two years alone we have completed flood schemes in Appleby, Keswick, Ulverston and Threlkeld and spent £1 million maintaining existing defences including 50km of walls and embankments.

Animal sentience

In response to recent media coverage around the principle of animals as sentient beings, please find below some further information which sets out the government’s position.

Did MPs vote against the principle of animal sentience?

• No. The vote was not a vote against the idea that animals are sentient and feel pain - that is a misconception. There is no question that the government recognises animals as sentient beings.

• The vote against New Clause 30 was the rejection of a faulty amendment, which would not have achieved its stated aims of providing appropriate protection for animals.

• Our policies on animal welfare are driven by our recognition that animals are indeed sentient beings and we are acting energetically to reduce the risk of harm to animals – whether on farms or in the wild.

• We are committed to the very highest standards of animal welfare. As the Prime Minister has set out, we will make the United Kingdom a world leader in the care and protection of animals.

Why did MPs vote against Clause 30 in the Withdrawal Bill?

• Last week, MPs were invited to vote on an amendment that would transfer the EU’s Article 13 into the Withdrawal Bill. This states that animals should be recognised as sentient beings when member states implement EU polices.

• We agree with this principle, however, Article 13 has not delivered the progress we want to see and it does not have direct effect in law.

• It has failed to prevent practices across the EU which are cruel and painful to animals. Article 13 also has a number of limitations and exemptions for example it does not cover animals kept at home as pets.

Will the government be bringing in a new law that deals with this?

• We will ensure that any necessary changes required to UK law are made in a rigorous and comprehensive way to ensure animal sentience is recognised after we leave the EU.

What is the government doing to protect animals?

• In the UK, we are improving animal welfare standards without EU input and beyond the scope of Article 13.

• We are making CCTV mandatory in all slaughterhouses – a requirement which goes above and beyond any EU rule. We will consult on draft legislation to increase maximum sentences for animal abusers to five years in prison – more than almost every other European nation.

• We propose combatting elephant poaching with a ban on the ivory trade which is more comprehensive than anywhere else in Europe. Our ban on microbeads which harm marine animals has been welcomed by Greenpeace as “the strongest in the world”, and is certainly the strongest in Europe.

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