Could a no-deal Brexit mean backtracking our welfare standards?

18 October 2018, at 12:00am

UK - Government must prioritise high welfare imports to avoid low-grade, low-welfare products arriving on our supermarket shelves

Animal welfare standards and food quality could plunge if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, warns the RSPCA.

With a ‘no deal’ scenario looming, the RSPCA is calling for the government to ensure that animal products imported into the UK under World Trade Organisation rules would meet our own high welfare standards.

The UK currently has much higher standards than many non-EU countries with which it is seeking trade deals. The USA routinely uses sow stalls in most pig production, which we know causes severe welfare issues.

RSPCA Head of Public Affairs David Bowles said: “A no-deal Brexit is a nightmare scenario for our animals. The fall-out would be potentially catastrophic for farm animal welfare standards and a
disaster for UK farmers and consumers.

“Crashing out without a deal could fire the starting gun for a race to the bottom, where price, not quality, influences what ends up on our supermarket shelves. It would also be disastrous for UK farmers as their main market - the EU - would be closed off due to high tariffs and long veterinary border checks.

“And even when free-trade deals are eventually agreed, that could open the flood gates to imported goods produced under much lower farm animal welfare standards than we currently accept, unless the Government insists on high standards. Farmers here could be undercut by these cheaper, lower-quality imports with shoppers wanting higher welfare facing high prices .

“Ensuring animal products that are imported to the UK meet our high welfare standards must be a priority not just for animal welfare reasons but also to protect the integrity of UK food and the commercial viability of UK farming.

“We have to get international trade agreements and we have to get them right if we are to maintain and even improve animal welfare after we leave the EU.”

The Government has admitted in the last month that a no deal could see people stopped from going abroad on holiday with their cat and dog, an end to horses being freely moved to races such as the Grand National and much longer journeys for Northern Irish horses to get to their nearest abattoir. There would also be an increase in animal testing if the EU no long recognised British safety and chemicals testing.

The RSPCA would also like to see the commitment to protecting the UK’s domestic animal welfare standards enshrined in law, in either the Agriculture or Trade Bill and all current animal welfare laws, at the very least, to be kept to the same standard, including:

As reported by the RSPCA