Environment Secretary Michael Gove has hit out at social media users who wrongly claimed MPs voted against treating animals as sentient beings.

Mr Gove attacked the way decision making and reporting are being “corrupted and distorted” by online commentators.

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

He told BBC Radio Four’s Today programme: “On social media there was a suggestion that somehow MPs had voted against the principle that animals are sentient beings. That did not happen. That was absolutely wrong.

“There’s an unhappy tendency now for people to believe that the raw and authentic voice of what’s shared on social media is more reliable than what is said in Hansard or on the BBC.

“We have got to stand up against the way in which social media corrupts and distorts both reporting and decision making.”

Among celebrities who claimed online that MPs had voted to deny acknowledgement of animals as sentient beings were Ben Fogle and Sue Perkins.

Mr Fogle apologised for tweets which said the vote showed MPs “don’t care” about how animals are treated.

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

“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.

“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.”

An amendment to the European Union (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 last week.

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