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Minister confirms Government looking at innovative options to improve farm animal welfare post Brexit

MPs debate issues such as live export and non-stun slaughter.

pigs

A commons debate about farm animal welfare post-Brexit saw the Government confirm leaving the EU offers an opportunity to improve welfare standards in areas such as slaughter, farm support systems and labelling

During the debate held on Tuesday (24 Jan), the Government made explicit and detailed comments about how they saw post-Brexit farming evolve.

The debate comes just weeks after a poll by the RSPCA revealed eight out of ten people want animal welfare laws improved or at least kept the same after we leave the EU.

The survey found that 81% of the public believe that post Brexit animal welfare laws in the UK should be improved or at least kept at the same level* and only 5% disagreed.

The Government confirmed that Brexit provided an opportunity to improve the slaughter of pigs, deliver higher welfare incentives to farmers in the new support system and protect UK farmers from the import of lower welfare, lower cost meat.

RSPCA assistant director of external affairs David Bowles said: “There’s no doubt that Brexit is going to be a complex issue and a lot of legislation covering farm animals in particular will need to be reviewed, but we are delighted the Government are considering the opportunities Brexit gives to improve farm welfare and also consider rewarding farmers who rear to higher welfare standards.

“We were very encouraged to hear the debate yesterday. A healthy discussion on these complex and extremely important issues is just the beginning, but it is encouraging to see the forward thinking from the Government.”

Many speakers voiced concerns for the current lack of mandatory CCTV in slaughterhouses and spoke about the potential to introduce set guidelines for quality control on the placement of cameras and quality and review process of the footage.

Others spoke about the risk to UK farmers who rear higher welfare products from the UK being undercut by the import of low-welfare, cheaper products – and that the UK should lead the way and set an example for other countries when it comes to robust, high welfare farming.

Another popular topic was that of a clear, concise food labelling system, where consumers could easily identify products that have been raised in high welfare conditions by UK farmers, along with a clear mark to identify if the animal had been slaughtered with or without stunning – something the RSPCA is extremely keen to back.

David Bowles added: “For many years the RSPCA has campaigned for a clear food labelling system which would leave no room for consumers to be confused as to where and how the meat they are purchasing was reared and slaughtered. Non-stunned animal meat can enter the conventional food market without labelling, and we have always felt consumers should be able to easily make that choice.

“This is a vital opportunity for the Government to improve animal welfare as it stands now in this country, but also to create new legislation that until Brexit, it was unable to consider, for example, the introduction of standards and legislation for the welfare of ducks, dairy and beef cattle – all of which currently do not have specific standards in place to protect them.”

The risks posed to animal welfare laws when leaving the EU were also discussed, including if the Government decides to deviate from existing standards, or if free trade agreement negotiations left non-compliance guidelines unworkable. British products could be undercut and the importation of meat produced without higher welfare could be available and preferable to consumers because of lower price.

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