Brexit and Animal Welfare

Highlighting the key animal welfare issues which must be addressed in any post Brexit trade agreement.

The USPCA is a member of the Eurogroup for Animals UK EU Taskforce, which is a working group of twelve leading animal welfare organisations from across the UK. The organisations within this taskforce share a mutual concern that animal welfare be protected in post Brexit agreement discussions. 

The taskforce has published a paper setting out clear recommendations to the UK Government to negotiate in the framework of the coming post-Brexit negotiations between the UK and the EU which will both preserve and advance existing animal welfare protections.

UK & EU Free Trade Agreement

The UK Government has said that they will maintain and, where possible, improve standards of animal welfare in the UK, particularly as new free trade agreements (FTAs) are negotiated. The UK-EU FTA is the first one to start from essentially the same animal welfare standards, zero tariffs and a shared understanding of animal welfare.  The FTA should keep zero tariffs and set up mutual recognition of regulatory processes.  A FTA that is truly fit for purpose must have a chapter on animal welfare, setting out the principle of dynamic alignment to improve the 44 shared animal welfare standards that exist whilst allowing countries to undertake individual measures, such as stopping the export of live animals for slaughter or fattening. 

This framework to improve animal welfare is not only possible under Article XXIV of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) it also sets a clear precedent and template for the UK and other countries when negotiating FTAs in the future.   The FTA should formally recognise the links between animal welfare and sustainable development (e.g. antimicrobial resistance) under the sustainable development chapter. 

Mutual acceptance of regulatory processes will avoid duplication of testing on animals. There is also the opportunity to cooperate in the advancement of animal-free research and developing alternatives to the use of animals in research, a shared approach to thematic reviews on the use of animals for scientific purposes, and on replacing animals.

Cooperative work to tackle illegal trafficking of wildlife and ensure better conservation. 

Collaboration in fighting the illegal pet trade and to ensure that the non-commercial movement of cats and dogs is not used as a cover to trade commercially in these animals.

Common Veterinary Area

A common veterinary area (CVA) provides a common space for the control of animal diseases, the trade in animals and products of animal origin and the import of these animals and products from third countries.

Under the Withdrawal Treaty the single animal health and veterinary zone is maintained across the island of Ireland, subject to the periodic consent of the Northern Ireland Assembly. This means that any animals or animal derived products travelling from Great Britain to the island of Ireland - whether it is traveling to Northern Ireland or Ireland - will have to undergo full inspections in line with EU rules.

A Common Veterinary Area would then alleviate the need for any additional checks, whilst still allowing for targeted or intelligence-led checks to prevent non-compliant movement as necessary. This would help maintain movement, including within the UK (between Northern Ireland and Great Britain), whilst reducing needless stress for the animals and safeguarding a high standard of animal health and welfare.

Without such a CVA, inspections at ports of entry into the EU or Northern Ireland would be

laborious, slow, and are likely to present real threats to animal welfare.