Animal welfare laws at risk from carried-over EU laws Bill
The RSPCA is warning that the nation's animal welfare standards could plunge, as forty-four animal welfare laws carried over from the EU come under threat from proposed new UK Government legislation.
A key debate today in the House of Commons (the Report Stage of the REUL Bill) will help decide whether crucial legislation that has made animals' lives better, such as the bans on battery hens and cosmetics testing on animals and the use of farm animal growth promoters, will be kept.
Around 80% of all major animal welfare laws in the UK were agreed upon when the UK was a member of the EU. Existing laws including the battery hen ban, the ban on cosmetics testing on animals and the banning of growth promoters in farm animals are just some of the forty-four animal welfare-related pieces of legislation brought over from the EU which are now in danger of being scrapped.
The threat comes from the Retained EU law (Revocation & Reform) Bill - REUL - which sets out a filtering process to ascertain if a retained EU law should be continued. Altogether, a total of 2,417 laws need to be assessed by the end of this year (2023) - a very tight time period. The concern is that many of them - including the forty-four animal welfare laws - could automatically be lost as time runs out, as laws will be revoked by default at that stage unless Ministers actively move to save them.
David Bowles, RSPCA's head of public affairs said:
It's crunch time for many key animal welfare laws that help make animals' lives better.
If the UK's REUL Bill passes, hard-won laws that we take for granted now, such as the bans on battery hens, cosmetics testing on animals and growth promoters given to farm animals, could be lost.
If inertia or a lack of commitment from the new administration results in the time running out before the filtering process of those forty-four key pieces of animal welfare legislation can take place, those laws will automatically vanish into thin air.
That would be a tragedy. Not only would it be a huge backward step for animals but the UK Government would have reneged on its commitment to maintaining 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.
The threat to the forty-four pieces of legislation comes despite a majority of people wanting the UK Government to protect animal welfare by law. According to the charity's Animal Kindness Index, eight out of ten people in the UK support animal welfare being protected by law - including 80% of those polled in England, 90% in Wales, 82% in Scotland and 78% in Northern Ireland.
We mustn't allow animal welfare standards to drop as a result of the UK Government's determination to create a bonfire of EU laws. We're calling on the new Secretaries of State at the Business and Environment Ministries to drop the Bill completely as it serves no real purpose. If they wish to push ahead regardless we call on them to confirm an extension to the deadline to 2026 as the Bill allows.
The UK Government should also clarify the filter process and confirm which animal welfare laws will be safe and which ones will be examined or deleted. MPs will vote on such an amendment on Wednesday and we hope it will be passed to help ensure the essential laws are maintained.
The filtering process to ascertain if a retained EU law should be maintained is unclear but Defra, with responsibility for 570 laws - the largest number of EU retained laws in all of the Ministries and which contain the UK's high animal welfare and environmental standards - arguably has the hardest task. Budgetary reductions now about to be imposed will make this task more difficult.
Eighteen of the forty-four pieces of legislation carried over from the EU which now require 'filtering' relate to farm animals - the largest body of legislation - but others protect our wild animals, animals in science and pets.