Intergroup meeting: A UK-EU partnership to further animal welfare post-Brexit

16 Jan 2020
The Intergroup on the Welfare and Conservation of Animals gathered today to discuss the future UK-EU partnership and the different animal welfare issues raised by Brexit.

As the UK is highly likely to leave the EU at the end of this month, Anja Hazekamp MEP, President of the Intergroup, thanked the British members and stressed the invaluable contribution of the British Delegation to the Intergroup since its creation. The Intergroup session focused on the future and on how animal welfare could be best integrated in the UK-EU partnership agreement.

David Bowles, from the RSPCA, shared the suggestions of the Brexit & Animals Taskforce created by animal advocacy organisations. Brexit raises many issues related to animal welfare. Questions such as veterinary checks, provision of veterinary medicines, and the trade of animal-based products will need to be addressed. The negotiations between the EU and the UK will be unique since, for the first time, the two sides will start from a level-playing field and a situation of tariff-free movement. It will also be the first negotiations between markets and economies so interlinked. The UK only produces 61% of its food and imports the rest, mainly from the EU, and provides consequently an important market to EU farmers. The EU is also the by far the main destination for exports of British animal-based products. 

David Bowles presented five points to ensure that animal will not be lowered by Brexit and could even be strengthened. 

  • First, the agreement should include a non-regression clause to ensure that the UK does not lower its standards or allow imports with lower standards. 

  • Second, the future partnership should  foresee dynamic alignment. This means that, if one part raises its standards, the other side should reciprocate. 

  • Third, a tariff-free market should be created, especially on food. Potential tariffs post-Brexit could contribute to lowering animal welfare standards by raising pressure on producers. 

  • Fourth, there needs to have a system of mutual recognition of regulatory processes as the UK will leave standard-setting bodies such as EFSA and REACH. 

  • Finally, complete transparency during the negotiation process will be required for the civil society and citizens to provide their input on the ongoing negotiations. 

The presentation was followed by a debate on how the Brexit will impact animal welfare and which measures could be adopted. MEPs mentioned that, besides tariffs, the issue of quotas and global competition will be important to shape the future trade relationship: the UK will need to compete with other partners for the European quotas on imports, for example on lamb or beef. This could lead to a rise in live transport. The potential impact of Brexit on wildlife and on the fight against illegal trafficking was also discussed. In addition, the debate addressed the questions of enforcement and implementation of the legislation and the impact of free-trade agreements between the UK and other parts of the world. 

The debate was followed by a presentation from Sebastian Margenfeld from Animal Hope and Wellness on the dog meat trade in Indonesia. Over one million dogs are slaughtered each year in Indonesia to meet the local demand for the animal's meat. As this trade is mainly clandestine, the animals killed for consumption are often stolen household pets. The captured dogs are put into cages or sacks and have to endure long journeys where many die from suffocation, dehydration or heatstroke. Even though only 7 per cent of the Indonesian population consumes dog meat, this trade represents a health risk for the whole population as it could lead to the spread of rabies. Sebastian Margenfeld called for the European Parliament to raise this issue with the Indonesion government.