Brexit Bill reversal a 'great win' for animals

Brexit Bill reversal a 'great win' for animals

The RSPCA has warmly welcomed the UK Government's U-turn on its plans for scrapping swathes of retained EU legislation, which could have wiped out forty-four animal welfare laws, including bans on battery hens and using growth promoters on farm animals.

The animal charity had campaigned strongly against the process initially set out by the UK Government. Under previous plans, many of the 2,417 laws carried over from the EU - including the 44 animal welfare laws - could automatically have been lost as time ran out, with laws automatically revoked by default by an end-of-year deadline unless Ministers actively moved to save them.

That process had put hard-fought animal welfare laws - like banning battery hens - under threat; and risked "turning back the clock" on how UK legislation treats animals.

But in a change of plan, instead of listing retained legislation, the UK Government has listed legislation it proposes to delete. This will also crucially apply to the administrations in Scotland and Wales, who will also have the power to retain any laws that the UK Government may not wish to keep for England, eliminating concern that devolved laws could be lost by mistake.

RSPCA head of public affairs David Bowles said:

"The UK Government's U-turn is a huge relief to us and to all animals in the UK. Key animal welfare laws that help make animals' lives better were facing possible annihilation, with no consultation built-in for external organisations such as the RSPCA to fight to keep specific laws.

"Our campaign to retain the hard-fought laws that we take for granted now, such as the bans on battery hens, the import ban on seal products and the ban on the use and import of meat produced with growth promoters has undoubtedly helped to change the UK Government's mind. Thankfully, we've avoided turning back the clock on how UK law treats animals.

"Shockingly, these laws could have vanished into thin air, which would have been an animal tragedy. Not only would it have been a huge backward step for animals but the UK Government would have reneged on its commitment to maintain high standards of animal welfare post-Brexit, because around 80% of all major animal welfare laws in the UK are those carried over from the EU.

"This is a great win for all the UK's animals."

Around 80% of all major animal welfare laws in the UK were agreed when the UK was a member of the EU. Existing laws including the battery hen ban, the ban on imported seal products and the banning of growth promoters in farm animals are just some of the 44 animal welfare-related pieces of legislation brought over from the EU which were previously in danger of being scrapped.

The threat came from the Retained EU law (Revocation & Reform) Bill - REUL - which set out a filtering process to ascertain if a retained EU law should be continued. A total of 2,417 laws needed to be assessed by the end of this year (2023) - a very tight time period.  The concern was that many of them - including the 44 animal welfare laws - could automatically be lost as time ran out, Eighteen of the 44 pieces of legislation carried over from the EU relate to farm animals - the largest body of legislation - while others protect wild animals, animals in science and pets.