Battery hen and animal testing laws could be scrapped because of Brexit, warns RSPCA

Charity fears ‘inertia or a lack of commitment’ in government could lead laws to ‘vanish into thin air’

Jane Dalton
Friday 28 October 2022 16:22 BST
Related video: Boris Johnson defends Brexit

Laws protecting animals in the UK are at risk of being scrapped because of Brexit, the RSPCA has warned.

Bans on battery hens, cosmetics testing on animals and farm animal growth promoter are among 44 animal-welfare measures that are due to be carried over from the EU.

But they will be lost if the government runs out of time to incorporate them into UK law.

In all, nearly 2,500 laws need to be assessed by the end of next year – a tight schedule – and any not acted on will drop out of law by default.

Around four in five major animal-welfare laws in the UK were agreed when the UK was a member of the EU.

The RSPCA says the threat is from the Retained EU law (Revocation & Reform) Bill, which sets out a filtering process on whether an EU law should be kept. The Bill passed its second reading in the House of Commons on Tuesday.

Laws will be revoked by the end of next year unless ministers actively save them.

As time runs out, any not saved will be lost.

RSPCA head of public affairs David Bowles said: “If the Bill passes, the clock will start ticking on animal-welfare standards in the UK.

“If inertia or a lack of commitment from the new administration results in the time running out before the filtering process of those 44 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 maintain high standards of animal welfare post-Brexit.

“We are 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 government should also clarify the filter process and confirm which animal-welfare laws will be safe and which ones will be examined or deleted.”

The charity said it feared budget cuts would make it harder for the environment department to work on retaining laws as it was responsible for the highest number of EU retained laws.

The laws protect farm and wild animals, those in science and pets.

A government spokesperson said: “We have some of the highest animal-welfare standards in the world and we are continuing to explore ways to enhance our position as a global leader.

“The passage of the Kept Animals Bill will bring in some of the world’s highest and strongest protections for pets, livestock and kept wild animals.

“In reviewing our retained EU law, we want to ensure that laws are fit for purpose and able to drive improvements, allowing us to take a modern approach to making regulations.”

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