Viral Animal Sentience Fake News Story Seen By 2 Million People

This week a number of stories claiming the Tories had voted that animals are not sentient beings went mega-viral. An article on the Independent website – shared thousands of times on social media – reported “The Tories have rejected all scientists and voted that animals don’t feel pain”. The Evening Standard claimed they “just voted that animals cannot feel pain or emotions”. The Indy, which has truly become one of the most downmarket trash clickbait websites around, even named and shamed the Tory MPs “who voted legislation on animals feeling pain and emotion”. These attacks were tweeted out by celebrities like Ben Fogle and Sue Perkins, politicians including Caroline Lucas and failed LibDem MP Sarah Olney, and petitions were signed by hundreds of thousands of unwitting animal lovers. The stats are huge:

  • Analysis shows 2 million people have seen articles and tweets about the Tories voting against animal sentience
  • 155,157 signed a Change.org petition repeating the claim
  • 263,476 signed another petition on 38 Degrees
  • 43,081 signed a third petition on ThePetitionSite
  • Nearly 30,000 have signed smaller petitions (that’s almost 500,000 overall)
  • Sue Perkins shared it with her 1 million followers
  • Rachel Riley shared it with her 510,000 followers
  • Ben Fogle shared it with his 336,000 followers
  • Caroline Lucas shared it with her 276,000 followers
  • The RSPCA tweeted it out to their 248,000 followers

Just one problem. It is fake news…

During last Wednesday’s debate, Tory MPs repeatedly explained that the government already recognised animal sentience and that the amendment was flawed. Read it here in Hansard – Tory MP after Tory MP stood up and agreed that animals are sentient. No MPs argued against animal sentience. It is just not true to say, as the Indy did, that “The Tories have rejected all scientists and voted that animals don’t feel pain”. Anyone who has seen the Environment Secretary with his Bichon Frise Snowy, or indeed the hedgehog above, knows these viral articles are fake news. This made up story, circulated by the Tories’ opponents for solely cynical reasons, is cutting through to animal lovers who think they can trust things they believe on the Independent website. This morning Michael Gove categorically committed the government to animal sentience once and for all. He couldn’t be clearer:

“This government 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.”

Will that go as viral as the fake news BS that hoodwinked thousands in the last week?




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