A subtle u-turn by the government means that 44 animal welfare laws dating back to the UK’s membership of the EU will be retained rather than scrapped at the end of the year.
The laws are part of the 2,417 pieces of EU legislation which were originally set to expire at the end of 2023 unless ministers specifically acted to save them. However, a change of emphasis means that the government will now actively highlight which pieces of legislation are to be scrapped, with the others being retained. This will also apply to the administrations in Scotland and Wales, who have the power to retain any laws that the UK government may not wish to keep for England, eliminating concern that devolved laws could be lost by mistake.
Around 80% of all major animal welfare laws in the UK were agreed when the UK was a member of the EU. Nearly half of the 44 pieces of legislation carried over from the EU relate to farm animals, while others protect wild animals, animals in science and pets, including the laws governing the commercial trade in cats and dogs, the cross-border movement of pets and the ban on the import and sale of dog and cat fur.
The RSPCA welcomed the change in the government’s approach. Head of public affairs David Bowles said: “The UK Government’s u-turn is a huge relief to us and to all animals in the UK. Key animal welfare laws that help make animals’ lives better were facing possible annihilation, with no consultation built-in for external organisations such as the RSPCA to fight to keep specific laws.
“Our campaign to retain the hard-fought laws that we take for granted now, such as bans on battery hens, the import ban on seal products and the ban on the use and import of meat produced with growth promoters has undoubtedly helped to change the UK Government’s mind. Thankfully, we’ve avoided turning back the clock on how UK law treats animals.”