A commons debate about farm animal welfare post-Brexit saw the Government confirm leaving the EU offers an opportunity to improve welfare standards in areas such as slaughter, farm support systems and labelling.
During the debate held on Tuesday 24 Jan, the Government made explicit and detailed comments about how they saw post-Brexit farming evolve.
The Government confirmed that Brexit provided an opportunity to improve the slaughter of pigs, deliver higher welfare incentives to farmers in the new support system and protect UK farmers from the import of lower welfare, lower cost meat.
RSPCA assistant director of external affairs David Bowles said: “There’s no doubt that Brexit is going to be a complex issue and a lot of legislation covering farm animals in particular will need to be reviewed, but we are delighted the Government are considering the opportunities Brexit gives to improve farm welfare and also consider rewarding farmers who rear to higher welfare standards.
“We were very encouraged to hear the debate yesterday. A healthy discussion on these complex and extremely important issues is just the beginning, but it is encouraging to see the forward thinking from the Government.”
Many speakers voiced concerns for the current lack of mandatory CCTV in slaughterhouses and spoke about the potential to introduce set guidelines for quality control on the placement of cameras and quality and review process of the footage.
Others spoke about the risk to UK farmers who rear higher welfare products from the UK being undercut by the import of low-welfare, cheaper products – and that the UK should lead the way and set an example for other countries when it comes to robust, high welfare farming.
David Bowles added: “For many years the RSPCA has campaigned for a clear food labelling system which would leave no room for consumers to be confused as to where and how the meat they are purchasing was reared and slaughtered. Non-stunned animal meat can enter the conventional food market without labelling, and we have always felt consumers should be able to easily make that choice.
“This is a vital opportunity for the Government to improve animal welfare as it stands now in this country, but also to create new legislation that until Brexit, it was unable to consider, for example, the introduction of standards and legislation for the welfare of ducks, dairy and beef cattle – all of which currently do not have specific standards in place to protect them.”