Blog: The Impact of Brexit on Animal Welfare: What Has Changed?

Brexit has brought significant changes to various sectors in the UK, including animal welfare. As the UK navigates its new relationship with the European Union, several key areas of animal welfare have been impacted. Here’s an overview of what has changed:

1. Legislative Framework

Before Brexit, the UK adhered to EU animal welfare standards, which were some of the highest in the world. Post-Brexit, the UK has the autonomy to amend these laws. While this offers the opportunity to enhance protections, there is also concern about potential deregulation.

2. Agricultural Practices

The UK’s departure from the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has led to the introduction of the Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS). This scheme aims to reward farmers for sustainable practices, potentially improving animal welfare. However, the transition period has created uncertainty for farmers and animal welfare organisations.

3. Trade and Import Regulations

Brexit has altered trade agreements, impacting the import and export of animals and animal products. New customs checks and regulatory standards may affect the welfare of animals during transport. The UK government has implemented stricter import controls to prevent diseases, but the impact on trade flows remains a concern.

4. Animal Testing

The UK has historically been aligned with the EU’s stringent regulations on animal testing for cosmetics and chemicals. Post-Brexit, there is pressure to maintain these standards to ensure that animal welfare is not compromised in the pursuit of trade deals and economic gains.

5. Pet Travel

The Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) allowed easy movement of pets between the UK and EU countries. Post-Brexit, new requirements have been introduced, such as the need for animal health certificates, which complicates the process for pet owners and can affect pet welfare during travel.

6. Funding for Animal Welfare Organisations

Many UK animal welfare organisations previously benefited from EU funding. The loss of these funds has created financial challenges, necessitating the search for alternative sources to continue their vital work.

7. Fisheries and Wildlife Conservation

Brexit has reshaped the management of fisheries, with the UK taking control of its waters. This change aims to enhance sustainable fishing practices, but effective enforcement is crucial to prevent overfishing and protect marine wildlife.

Opportunities and Challenges Ahead

Brexit presents both opportunities and challenges for animal welfare in the UK. While there is potential to exceed EU standards and tailor laws specifically to UK needs, vigilance is required to ensure that economic pressures do not lead to the erosion of hard-won protections. Advocacy and public engagement will be key in shaping a future where animal welfare remains a priority.

As the UK continues to adjust to its post-Brexit reality, the collaboration between the government, animal welfare organisations, and the public will be essential to safeguard and improve the lives of animals across the country.

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Jacob Lloyd Executive Director
Jacob Lloyd is the Executive Director of Animal Welfare Investigations Project. He has experience in conducting covert investigations on organised animal cruelty. He is a Certified Animal Cruelty Investigator through the University of Missouri Law Enforcement Training Institute (LETI) in the United States.