Species Equality Bill 2020 – Briefing Note


  • Speciesism is defined as “a prejudice or bias in favour of the interests of members of one's own species and against those of members of other species.” (Peter Singer, Animal Liberation).
  • Speciesism is a form of discrimination, and one that the Animal Justice Party believes should be made illegal.
  • It is well-established in scientific literature that non-human animals are sentient beings, with an equal ability to feel pleasure and pain as humans. It logically follows, therefore, that we should give equal moral consideration and legal protection to the suffering of non-human animals as we to do the suffering of humans, regardless of their species.
  • However, right now, our laws do not work this way. Animals are classified as mere “property” to be exploited for human benefit, and the minimal legal protections afforded to animals are quickly pushed aside when human and non-human animal interests conflict.
  • This Bill seeks to correct this imbalance, and provide protection for some basic freedoms of non-human animals.

Key Elements of the Bill


  • At the outset, this Bill recognises that sentient non-human animals do not exist to serve humans, but rather have their own intrinsic value and deserve a quality of live which reflects that intrinsic value.

Basic Animal Freedoms

  • The Bill then sets out five Basic Animal Freedoms that it seeks to protect.
    • Freedom from hunger and thirst 
    • Freedom from discomfort 
    • Freedom from physical or psychological pain, injury or disease
    • Freedom to express natural behaviours
    • Freedom from fear and distress
  • These are taken from the Five Freedoms, which were originally published by the UK Farm Animal Advisory Committee in 1979 as a simple, scientific way of assessing the welfare state of an animal.
  • The Five Freedoms have been extremely influential in shaping the development of animal welfare standards. They are nationally and internationally recognised and endorsed by animal protections groups and animal industries.
  • In a legal system which treats animals as mere legal property, legislatively protecting these Basic Animal Freedoms will be a big step forward.

Specific Protections

  • The Bill then seeks to protect these Basic Animal Freedoms in two key ways:
    • Firstly, it requires the Government to issue a “statement of compatibility” with this Bill, and prevents the public authorities from acting in a way which contravenes these five Basic Animal Freedoms.
    • Secondly, it provides a right for Qualifying Person* to sue any individual or company who intentionally breaches one of the five Basic Animal Freedoms, if that action:
      • Is unreasonable, inhumane or unjustifiable; or
      • If carried out in respect of a human, would be unacceptable by community standards, or unlawful.
  • The comparison to similar conduct carried out on a human is crucial. The animal agribusiness industry often argues it is meeting the Five Freedoms, even when it locks hens in battery cages surrounded in their own excrement without room to ever turn around. This Bill will force them to justify how this can be the case, when we would never do such a thing to a human.
  • This does not mean that animals suddenly have all the same rights and protections as humans. To enliven this Bill, a person must have first breached one of the Basic Animal Freedoms. These Freedoms have been are sensibly constrained to the basic protections animals need to live a good life, like freedom from pain and hunger.   It does not mean that someone could sue because an animal has not been given the right to vote, or the right to an education.
  • The conduct breaching the Basic Animal Freedom must have been intentional – so someone who accidentally runs over a wild animal on the road and causes pain.
  • The Bill also does not make it unlawful to kill an animal, if that animal does not feel any pain. So humane euthanasia of a wild animal that has been injured, or a companion animal that is suffering, would not breach the Bill.


  • If the Supreme Court find that there has been a breach of the Bill, it can:
    • issue an injunction;
    • order that damages be paid to an animal protection organisation; and/or
    • order that the animal(a)receive veterinary treatment, or be put under the care of a Qualifying Animal Guardian.**

*Any person or organisation with a demonstrated interest in the protection of Non-Human Animals.

**Any person or organisation deemed by Court to be adequately resources qualified to provide care, housing and/or responsibly adopt out a Non-Human Animal that is unable to live free in the wild.