Brexit poses wide-ranging risks to animal welfare, including a shortage of vets, costlier veterinary medicine, and an increase in the numbers of animals used in research, according to a new report by the Green Party’s Animals Spokesperson.
Keith Taylor MEP, who is also Vice Chair of the European Parliament’s Animal Welfare Intergroup, launches his ‘Animals and Brexit’ report as the Green Party gathered for its Spring conference in Bournemouth.
The release comes as the US dairy industry ramps up its lobbying for any US-UK post-Brexit trade deal to include significantly weaker animal welfare and consumer protections.
On the prospect of Brexit opening up the UK to milk from infected American cows, Keith said: “America’s demands for any US-UK trade deal to include watered-down standards on milk from infected cows is the starting gun for a post-Brexit race to the bottom on regulations that will leave animals as the ultimate losers.
“And, as my new report reveals, it’s not just Britain’s farmed animals at risk; pet welfare, wildlife protection are also threatened. At the same time, there is a significant risk Brexit will see more animals used in doubly unnecessary tests.”
The senior Green MEP’s report assesses the impacts the most likely Brexit scenarios will have on the current protections offered to the four main classifications of animals covered by EU law: farmed animals, animals used in research, wildlife and companion animals.
The 52-page report concludes that “Brexit, in any formulation, invariably means abandoning the achievements the UK has worked with the EU to build”. Adding that leaving the EU “will be one of the most defining political events for the protection of animals in the UK.”
According to the study, the UK government’s post-Brexit trade and migration agendas pose a “significant threat” to the welfare of farmed animals and pet owners’ access to high-quality and affordable veterinary care.
The loss of access to EU funding and research networks will also hamper progress towards the replacement of animal testing programmes and risk the duplication of tests. While the omission of European Union polluter pays and precautionary principles from the EU (Withdrawal) Bill risks “ripping the heart out of wildlife protection” in the UK.
Commenting on the findings of the report, Keith Taylor MEP said: “For the last 45 years, we have been influential members of a collaborative body that has worked to secure important animal welfare safeguards at home and across Europe.
“Leaving the EU, consequently, will be one of the most defining political events for the protection of animals in the UK. And while a huge number of the laws protecting animals are derived from our membership this report makes clear that the European Union’s influence on animal welfare in the UK is more than just directly legislative.”
“From the freedom of movement for EU vets to access to EU-wide research networks developing alternatives to animal testing, so many UK animal welfare advances are inexorably linked with our membership of the EU. Advances seriously compromised by the hard Brexit course being piloted by a Government paralysed by confusion and division.”
“While the Government claims the EU (Withdrawal) Bill will roll over almost half a century’s worth of hard-won animal welfare safeguards, this report shows that the assertion, both technically and practically, fails to stand up to scrutiny. Scrutiny, incidentally, is something the Bill denies Parliament when it comes to amending and scrapping EU laws post-Brexit.”
“The threats to animals posed by Brexit are tangible and plentiful. Farmed animals are being readied for sacrifice on the altar of free trade. Britain is set to take a step backwards on the road to cruelty-free research testing methods, with animals at risk of being the victims of doubly unnecessary and inhumane studies.”
“Meanwhile, pet health and wellbeing is threatened by both a ‘hostile environment’ for migrants which is already driving away talented EU vets and the needless decision to exit the European Medicines Agency. And, finally, the loss of vital EU polluter pays and precautionary principles leave our wildlife vulnerable to a reckless countryside development drive.”