Today the House of Lords EU Energy and Environment Subcommittee released its ‘Brexit: Farm Animal Welfare’ report. The report is the result of the Subcommittee’s mini inquiry into the potential effects of the UK leaving the European Union on farmed animal welfare, which was conducted earlier this year and to which ALAW submitted a written contribution in conjunction with Wildlife and Countryside Link.
Key findings and recommendations include:
- UK farmers could find themselves to be uncompetitive if imports from countries where welfare standards and cost of production is lower increase as a result of potential trading agreements post-Brexit. The report warns, “This could undermine the sustainability of the industry or incentivise a race to the bottom for welfare standards—contrary to the wishes of the UK industry.”
- EU farmed animal welfare law should be transposed into UK law to ensure existing minimum standards are preserved as soon as the UK exits the EU. After the UK leaves the EU, the industry, consumers and other stakeholders should be consulted on whether to improve on these minimum standards.
- Farmed animal welfare research, which the report states should be at the heart of any animal welfare policy decisions, should not be jeopardised by potential funding shortfalls once the UK leaves the EU. The government should devise a strategy to address this.
- Farmed animal welfare provisions should be included in any future free trade agreements.
- The Government should explore and clarify whether it is possible to restrict imports from other countries on grounds of farmed animal welfare under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.
- Labelling systems should be simplified so that customers can make a more informed decision when deciding whether to purchase higher or lower welfare products.
- As a large proportion of the veterinary staff that work within the UK agricultural industry are from other EU countries, the government should ensure the industry can continue to access the staff that it needs.
- The role and remit of the Farm Animal Welfare Committee in informing policy should be strengthened.
The report acknowledges that many of the contributors to the inquiry represented that Brexit should be used as an opportunity to improve farmed animal welfare, such as by reforming or ending live exports, banning zero-grazing of dairy cows and introducing mandatory animal health inspections by veterinarians, amongst others. Some industry bodies, however, cautioned against raising standards too high due the perceived impact on competitiveness.
ALAW is pleased that its recommendations that animal sentience be recognised in UK law and that the government should resist attempts to erode welfare standards were acknowledged.
You can read the full report here: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201719/ldselect/ldeucom/15/15.pdf.
You can read ALAW and Wildlife and Countryside Link’s written submission to the inquiry here: http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/eu-energy-and-environment-subcommittee/brexit-farm-animal-welfare/written/68853.html.