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Animals 2018, 8(11), 213; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani8110213

Brexit and Animal Protection: Legal and Political Context and a Framework to Assess Impacts on Animal Welfare

Department of Politics and Society, University of Winchester, Winchester SO22 4NR, UK
Received: 22 September 2018 / Revised: 12 November 2018 / Accepted: 14 November 2018 / Published: 18 November 2018
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Simple Summary

The British public voted to leave the European Union (EU) in a 2016 referendum and the United Kingdom (UK) is set to leave in March 2019. The UK has been part of the EU or the European Communities (EC) before it for around 50 years. Britain has had a major impact on EU animal protection laws and the UK as a member state has been substantially influenced by EU law. Brexit represents a major political change that will affect animal protection in the UK, the EU and internationally. Given the far greater numbers of animals used in agriculture, the impact of the UK’s departure from the EU on farm animals will determine whether Brexit is overall good or bad for animal protection. A major threat that Brexit poses is importing lower welfare meat and dairy products to the UK. A major opportunity post-Brexit is reform of agricultural policy to reward high animal welfare outside of the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). A soft Brexit, where the UK remains aligned to the EU in policy and trade, reduces the risks Brexit poses to animal protection. A hard Brexit means major threats to animal welfare are more likely to materialise. Further research is required to investigate whether the various threats and opportunities are likely to materialise and whether Brexit will be, all things considered, good or bad for animal protection.

Abstract

The British people voted to leave the European Union (EU) in a 2016 referendum. The United Kingdom (UK) has been a member of the EU since the Maastricht Treaty was signed in 1993 and before that a member of the European Communities (EC) since 1973. EU animal health and welfare regulations and directives have had a major impact on UK animal protection policy. Similarly, the UK has had a substantial impact on EU animal protection. Brexit represents a substantial political upheaval for animal protection policy, with the potential to impact animal welfare in the UK, EU and internationally. Brexit’s impact on farmed animals will determine the overall impact of Brexit on animals. A major threat to animal welfare is from importing lower welfare products. A major opportunity is reform of UK agricultural policy to reward high welfare outside the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). A soft Brexit, in which the UK remains in the single market and/or customs union, mitigates the threat of importing lower welfare products. A harder Brexit means threats to animal welfare are more likely to materialise. Whether threats and opportunities do materialise will depend on political considerations including decisions of key political actors. The Conservative Government delivering Brexit has a problematic relationship with animal protection. Furthermore, Brexit represents a shift to the political right, which is not associated with progressive animal protection. There is significant political support in the Conservative Party for a hard Brexit. Further research is required to investigate whether the various threats and opportunities are likely to materialise. View Full-Text
Keywords: Animal health; animal welfare; animal protection; Brexit; Common Agricultural Policy; Conservative Party; European Union; World Trade Organisation Animal health; animal welfare; animal protection; Brexit; Common Agricultural Policy; Conservative Party; European Union; World Trade Organisation
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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McCulloch, S.P. Brexit and Animal Protection: Legal and Political Context and a Framework to Assess Impacts on Animal Welfare. Animals 2018, 8, 213.

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