On Tuesday 24th January there was a parliamentary debate on how animal welfare standards in farming would be ensured after leaving the EU. Currently, an estimated 80% of animal welfare rules are included in European law, and out of 40 pieces of legislation, 18 are specifically about animals in agriculture.
Incentives for Farmers to Improve Animal Welfare after leaving the EU
Opening the debate, Mrs Villiers (Conservative, Chipping Barnet) outlined the task ahead of the government in replacing these laws, saying that “we have an opportunity to promote a new vision for agriculture, to help our farmers work in ways that restore natural resources in soils, promote biodiversity and maintain the rural environment in good shape for future generations.” She went on to add that a new system of farm support should “reward farmers who adopt higher welfare standards.”
In reply, the Farming Minister, Mr Eustice, bowing down to pressure from the RSPCA and other welfare charities, said that plans after leaving the EU could include financial incentives, such as support for using free range, or pasture grazing systems.
He pointed out that the government made two key manifesto commitments on farm animal welfare, and that the Conservative party was the only one of the main parties to include such pledges in their manifesto. He then went on to draw attention to systems that have been implemented in Denmark, Holland, and Germany, which financially reward farmers who adopt standards of animal welfare that go above and beyond that required by regulation.
In conclusion, Mrs Villiers commented that there had been very strong, cross-party support for ensuring welfare standards in farming after leaving the EU and also for ensuring that farmers who apply animal welfare standards were not undercut by imports from jurisdictions that do not pursue the same level of ethical concern towards their livestock.
RSPCA Welcomes Incentives for Farmers after Leaving the EU
The debate came only weeks after an RSPCA poll found that 81% of the public believe that, after leaving the EU, animal welfare standards should be improved or at least remain unchanged. Speaking about the poll for the RSPCA, assistant director of external affairs, David Bowles, said that Brexit provided “a golden opportunity for the Government to improve welfare and to consider incentives for farmers who rear to higher welfare standards.”
In addition to changing the way subsidies are paid to improve animal welfare and provide incentives for farmers, the RSPCA are also campaigning for compulsory CCTV in all abattoirs, reforming slaughter legislation to end non-stun animal slaughter, and ending live exports.
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