Animal welfare generates more letters to MPs and MEPs than any other issue so it is not surprising that animal lovers want to know what impact Brexit means for this area.
Around 80% of UK animal welfare legislation originates from the EU with some 44 different laws agreed over the past 42 years.
Of course there are many unknowns to be sorted out before the UK can leave the EU; what will be our negotiating position, how long will this take, and will we be in the Single Market but in the past month we do know that all the animal welfare laws will be passed into UK legislation and then amended, which is what the RSPCA was asking for, and that subsidies for farmers are being kept until 2020.
Other good news is that all the laws that set at the national level, by the Governments and Parliaments in the UK, will not be touched. These include our Animal Welfare Act which is the framework law for animal cruelty in England and Wales. The RSPCA spends the majority of its time and money enforcing this legislation, through our 340 inspectors. Laws such fox hunting, tail docking and circuses will be unaffected.
Now the UK has confirmed all the legislation will come over we can now look at the real opportunities to improve animal welfare. Last year British farmers received nearly €3.5 billion in subsidies from Europe. We can now decide how these subsidies will be spent and
if they should be used to fund, for instance, animal welfare assurance schemes or farming at higher standards. At the Conservative conference this month Defra confirmed there are looking for new innovative ways to spend this money.
Freed of the shackles of EU law, there are also opportunities for the UK to agree higher standards such as mandatory CCTV in slaughterhouses, or prohibiting the slaughter of farm animals without stunning or bringing in mandatory labelling on how your food is produced.
Much still remains to be agreed. But the RSPCA will be there ensuring that we raise not lower animal standards and using every opportunity to get laws passed that are even better than the ones we have now.
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