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41 animal charities urge government to ‘put words into action’ on post-Brexit welfare

The UK Centre for Animal Law and Wildlife and Countryside Link have released a report ‘Brexit – getting the best deal for animals’ calling on the UK Government to “turn words into action” for animals.

The report is supported by 41 animal welfare charities in the UK, who have joined forces to make sure that animal protection is not lost as Britain exits the EU.

It recommends a suite of changes that would enable ministers to realise their goal of being ‘a world leader on animal welfare’.

To fulfil Michael Gove and Theresa May’s stated ambitions to enhance animal welfare in post-Brexit Britain, the charities are calling for animal welfare to be put centre stage in relevant future legislative decisions, including through the Animal Welfare Bill which is currently under consultation.

The report also requests that the government demonstrates strong global leadership on animal welfare, including by committing to ensure that protecting and enhancing animal welfare is a priority in new trade agreements.

Suggestions made in the report include:

  • Close loopholes in the Pet Travel Scheme that allow the cruel trade in poorly bred pups from Central and Eastern European puppy-farms: If the UK raised standards by reintroducing blood testing requirements and improving border checks, it could help thousands of dogs affected.[3]
  • Extend existing fur trade bans: Only the sale of cat, dog and seal fur is banned in the EU, despite some 90% of the British population wanting a stop to all fur sales.
  • Ban live exports for slaughter: Livestock legislation has remained the same for 12 years despite European scientists calling for improvements on conditions and journey times. Brexit gives an opportunity to ban cruel live exports for slaughter or fattening and strengthen journey times and standards.
  • Introduce strong welfare incentives in British farming: There is no meaningful animal welfare aspect in the existing Common Agricultural Policy, 80% of payments are essentially based on farm size. UK welfare incentives could help transform conditions for animals on British farms.
  • Introduce new animal product labelling laws: At present meat and milk don’t have to be labelled to identify how they were produced. Mandatory egg labelling saw free-range sales soar and should be replicated into other areas to aid consumer choice.
  • Ban imports of foie-gras: The UK has been unable to ban foie-gras imports because of the EU free movement of goods principle, despite a de facto UK ban on production already existing and 63% of the UK public supporting a ban on sales due to welfare concerns.
  • Work with UK fisheries to promote humane catches: Encouraging the UK fishing fleet to invest in new stunning technology would improve the welfare of billions of fish during capture.
  • Introduce legal protection for crabs, lobsters, octopuses and squids in the Animal Welfare Bill: These animals aren’t protected by EU law outside of use in laboratories, despite being proven to experience pain and suffering, and being protected in countries like New Zealand and Norway.
  • Adopt world-leading measures aimed at combating wildlife trafficking and domestic wildlife crime: Wild animals are being widely exploited and traded in the UK despite EU legal protection. UK legislation enforcement should be bolstered post-Brexit to protect wild animals in trade by adopting a stricter ‘positive list’ approach – anything on the list can come in, anything not can’t.
  • Commitment to ending ‘severe’ suffering’ in animal experiments, keep the cosmetics testing ban: The UK should; maintain the EU testing and marketing ban on animal-tested cosmetics, improve transparency around the use of animals in research, commit to eliminating experiments causing ‘severe’ suffering, and invest in humane non-animal technologies – 74% of us want more done to find alternatives.

Claire Bass of Humane Society International UK and Chair of Wildlife and Countryside Link’s Animal Welfare Group, said: “Legal protections from the EU have helped raise animal welfare standards but as the Secretary of State has said, there is still substantial room for improvement. Animal welfare matters to voters, and it matters to British businesses; the government can satisfy both by taking the tangible steps in our report.”

Alan Bates, of the UK Centre for Animal Law, said: “Fixing gaping animal law flaws is a big opportunity for post-Brexit Britain and should be a key objective for the UK government. Not only would boosting animal welfare protections help prevent thousands of animals from unnecessary suffering and even death, it also makes economic sense.”

David Bowles, head of public affairs at RSPCA, added: “Brexit offers huge opportunities to give animals a better deal in the UK. While the EU has given animal protections in many areas, it has also handcuffed our hands and stopped improvements to welfare in other areas like mandatory meat and milk labelling based on method of production, improving the slaughter of farm animals or stopping the sale of foie-gras, already banned in the UK.

“The government has given lots of warm words on animal welfare, we now want to see cold hard action in the Animal Welfare Bill and post-Brexit legislation.”

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