THE TOWN’S MP has responded to criticism after he voted against the UK adopting a piece of EU animal welfare legislation.

On November 15 an amendment to the European Union withdrawal bill which would have transfered protocol on animal sentience into UK law was defeated by 313 votes to 295, with Dr Phillip Lee one of the 313.

The vote triggered multiple petitions and protests from animal rights groups as the notion that mainly Conservative MPs had denied the existence of animals' inner lives infuriated the public.

So ferocious was the online reaction, Theresa May was forced to clarify the party's position at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday:

She said: “We recognise and respect that animals are sentient beings, and should be treated accordingly.”

The prime minister followed in the footsteps of numerous other MPs who took to social media to have their say, including Dr Lee.

In a statement published this evening (Wednesday), he wrote: “To be absolutely clear at the outset, I of course do not believe that animals don’t have feelings or the capacity to feel pain.

“The principle of the sentience of animals is not in doubt.

“The UK’s formal recognition of animals as sentient is graded ‘A’ by the Animal Protection Index because of our robust domestic legislation, in particular the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

“This compares favourably with other EU nations, such as France, Italy and Spain, all of which have received a 'C' grade.”

Dr Lee went on to say that the suggested amendment would have made no changes to UK animal welfare after the country leaves the EU.

He continued: “We should also be mindful that the EU protocol is not necessarily perfect. Under the protocol you can keep farm animals in conditions that many would class as cruel.

“And, disputed practices such as bull-fighting, fur-farming, Foie Gras and others continue to take place in the EU.”

The RSPCA has questioned this logic however, with head of public affair David Bowles noting only domestic animals were covered in the 2006 act in an interview with Farming UK.

He said: “It’s shocking that MPs have given the thumbs down to incorporating animal sentience into post-Brexit UK law.

“In the EU, we know that the recognition of animals as sentient beings has been effective in improving animal welfare across the region.

“If the UK is to achieve the Environment Secretary’s objective of achieving the highest possible animal welfare post-Brexit, it must do the same.”