From an animal rights perspective an independent Britain is worrying
As the pound plummets, billions are wiped off the stock market, the PM resigns, the political parties are in disarray, Scotland looks to leave the UK, and Europe itself looks set to crumble, to many it might seem trivial to say “What about the animals?” But not to me, not to us.
So what has Europe done for our animals? The EU has some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world and these are a few of its achievements over the last few years –
- In 2012 it banned battery caged hens and in 2013 sow stalls that cruelly restricted movement, both identified as the worst excesses of factory farming. Millions of farmed animals got a better quality of life
- Farming subsidies from the EU enable farmers to uphold higher welfare standards and provide protections for the environment
- The EU enacted strict rules to ensure animals are given regular rest, food and drink when being transported, and since 2015, this also applies to journeys that continue outside the EU
- The EU ended the use of great apes in animal testing
- The EU banned the sale of any cosmetic products that have been tested on animals
- The EU is at the forefront of the fight against wildlife crime, contributing millions to protection schemes for elephants, for example, and setting up training and anti-poaching patrols
- Last year the EU’s crime-fighting body Europol took an active part in the largest ever international operation against wildlife crime, making over 200 arrests and seizing live animals and animal body parts
- In March this year the EU set out a comprehensive EU action plan to crack down on wildlife trafficking
- Influential organisations such as the Eurogroup for Animals have access to lobby on behalf of animals at the highest level in Brussels for better protections Europe-wide
So what will animals lose?
- Once the divorce is completed, current EU animal protection laws will no longer have force in the UK
- And of course, the UK will not be subject to any further animal protections won by the EU
I’m no expert on EU law, but having witnessed the Tory government’s utter disregard for animals here in the UK over the last few years, I would say we have much to fear.
This is a government under the thumb of the NFU that actually got the EU ban on bee-slaughtering neonicotinoids suspended.
This is a government under the thumb of the NFU that’s not only persisting with the cull of badgers, a protected species, but plans to extend it against all expert scientific advice.
This is a government under the thumb of the Countryside Alliance that wants to scrap the Hunting Act.
This is a government that has dragged its heels for years on its manifesto pledge to enact a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses.
This is a government that has made efforts each subsequent year to remove funding from the National Wildlife Crime Unit, which does outstanding work on a tiny budget.
This is a government which wants to deregulate farming – wants to remove welfare standards at present required by law for animals – so every last penny can be extracted from them. Back in March, they proposed scrapping the official code on farming chickens, and to allow the industry to regulate itself, a change that rang alarm bells with all those who care about animals, including the RSPCA and Compassion in World Farming. And they intended the poor hens to be just the start. The Guardian reported:
“The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs confirmed it will now begin working with other livestock sectors in a staged timetable of reform. Other sectors that could get control of their own guidance include the cattle, sheep and pig farming industries.”
Nice use of the word ‘reform’ don’t you think? This is how my dictionary defines reform: “to make changes in an institution or practice in order to improve it“. So the Tories want to improve farming regulations, do they? For whom? Certainly not for the animals.
Factory farming is the most cost-effective way of turning animals into cash, and the industry has shown it can turn to extremely cruel animal farming practices in the pursuit of Rizla-thin profits
They hoped this one would slip under the radar, but the subsequent outcry caused them to shelve the plans. With people like Liz Truss, Owen Paterson and George Eustice still in the offing though, there is every chance we could see this noxious idea resurrected. If the Tories remain in power no longer subject to EU constraints, our animals will be at their mercy, and there is precious little of that particular quality to be found amongst them.
“If Britain leaves the EU, then current animal rights rules will not vanish overnight. But their future would not be certain long term, and from an animal rights perspective an independent Britain is worrying.
We have made impressive advances on animal rights in the UK over the years. But from an animal welfare perspective we really need continued European Union input. Animal rights are too important to be left to our current government, and if Brexit happens then the chances are that rights for farm animals will either stagnate or be whittled away.” Sam Barker in The Guardian 27th April.
It looks like we’re going to have our work cut out. We’re just going to have to raise our voice for animals even louder.
You can start by signing the petition here, to the UK Environment Secretary, Home Secretary & PM Ensure that environmental and animal welfare protective EU directives are kept
And another! 38degrees Keep the EU Laws that Protect the Environment
Post script Interesting short article by sentience-politics.org. 80% of our animal protection legislation has come from the EU, much of which this government has been reluctant to accept or implement.
Cruelty Free International thinks it likely that the UK will continue to follow EU directives affecting animals, at least in the short-term, since there will be so many other areas considered more important to negotiate.