Brexit and Animal Welfare Impact Assessment: Analysis of the Opportunities Brexit Presents for Animal Protection in the UK, EU, and Internationally
Centre for Animal Welfare, University of Winchester, Winchester SO22 4NR, UK
Received: 27 August 2019 / Revised: 16 October 2019 / Accepted: 17 October 2019 / Published: 28 October 2019
The British people voted in 2016 to leave the European Union (EU). The UK has a unique history as a leader in animal protection policy. It has a relatively large economy and significant political power on a global basis. Brexit presents both threats and opportunities to animal protection in the United Kingdom (UK), EU, and internationally. This paper assesses the opportunities Brexit presents for animal protection in terms of five criteria. These are first, the political situation; second, regulatory changes; third, economic and trade factors; fourth, institutional considerations; and fifth, EU and international impacts. Brexit provides the opportunity to reform UK farming to promote high animal welfare outside of the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Brexit means the UK can ban live animal exports and the import and sale of fur products and foie gras outside of the EU. Leaving the EU permits the UK to have stricter requirements for the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) to control puppy smuggling. Brexit provides an opportunity for the UK Government to reform policy-making for sentient animals. New sentience legislation could establish a fully independent UK Animal Welfare Advisory body and mandate Government to use animal welfare impact assessments on all policy that affects sentient species. Despite such opportunities, the UK Government appears uncommitted to major reforms. The drafting of the Agriculture Bill does not suggest a progressive animal welfare agenda. For live exports, the Government will consult on how to improve welfare, rather than outright prohibition. Similarly, rather than ban the import and sale of fur, the Government will use its influence to improve the welfare of fur-farmed animals outside the UK. Brexit provides some opportunities for animal protection. Pre-Brexit, the Government has not demonstrated the political will and commitment to realise these opportunities.