MICHAEL Gove has hit back at claims the UK Government does not want to treat animals as sentient beings after Brexit.

The Environment Secretary blamed social media for presenting a false impression after the House of Commons rejected an amendment to the Brexit legislation, which would have brought EU animal protection provisions into UK law.

Mr Gove insisted British legislation would be enacted to prevent a gap in animal welfare provisions opening up after withdrawal from the EU.

He told BBC Radio Four's Today programme: "I don't think that there will be a gap because I think what we are going to do is ensure we have stronger protection written into law in order to ensure that there is no gap.

"We will ensure that there is no gap in the operation of the law, and there is no way in which animal protection can be diminished in any way, in any shape, or in any form.

"On social media there was a suggestion that somehow MPs had voted against the principle that animals are sentient beings. That did not happen,” the Scot insisted.

"It is better to have an absolutely well-designed piece of UK legislation, rather than a poorly designed piece of EU legislation.

"We want to use an appropriate legislative vehicle in order to recognise the principle of animal sentience."

Mr Gove said that Brexit could lead to stronger animal welfare measures in areas like live exports and puppy farming.

"When it comes to puppy farming, when it comes to the sales of pets, there are restrictions within the European Union which mean we cannot take the steps that we want to in order to eliminate puppy farming, and to make sure that when people buy pets they know absolutely the origin and the circumstances in which those pets were born and brought up," he explained.

Last week, an amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill, which would have transferred the EU protocol on animal sentience, so that animals are still recognised as sentient beings under domestic law, was voted down.

Caroline Lucas, the Green Party co-leader, who tabled the amendment, had raised concerns that the current regulations risked dropping out of UK law by accident once Britain left the EU.