The Donkey Sanctuary has given a cautious welcome to a sudden change of heart by the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) following the vote by MPs to reject the inclusion of animal sentience into the EU Withdrawal Bill last week.

Mike Baker, chief executive of The Donkey Sanctuary, says: “The Donkey Sanctuary was disappointed and concerned that the clause was rejected. This defeat could have meant that current animal welfare standards would not have been enshrined in UK law post-Brexit.”

“DEFRA appears to have recognised the strength of feeling and is taking steps to reassure the public and MPs that animal sentience will now be properly recognised in UK legislation.”

He added: “The Donkey Sanctuary believes we have a moral duty to treat animals in a humane and compassionate way and that leaving the EU must not lead to any watering down of existing standards on animal welfare.”

Concluding his response Mike Baker says: “The Donkey Sanctuary, along with British farmers and other leading animal welfare bodies in the UK, is calling on the Government to urgently clarify its position on how it will help protect animal welfare post-Brexit. Action must be taken to ensure that leaving the EU is not a backwards step for animal welfare.”

The Donkey Sanctuary is calling on its supporters to write to their local MP and ask how they voted and what steps they are taking to ensure animal protection remains in UK law.