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
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.