Saving our Bacon after BREXIT

Abi Gwynn considers what leaving the EU could mean for our animals.

Illustration: Ray Carter

It seems over the past two and a half months ‘Brexit’ and ‘EU’ have become the nation’s favourite conversation starters, and for good reason. But what has been said about our animals and environment? It’s a shame that both referendum campaigns failed to explore how animals and the environment will be affected, but now we have voted out, what are the facts?

Around 80% of UK animal welfare laws originate from the EU (RSPCA, 2016). In terms of domestic and farm animal welfare, leaving the EU means that the UK will not have to comply with EU laws, giving us the opportunity to adopt our own welfare standards which could be better than Europe’s is presently.

The UK could decide to ban the use of ‘enriched’ battery cages for hens and go cage-free altogether, whereas the EU still enforces ‘enriched’ cage as a minimum. Conversely, the EU has set a lot of important welfare laws that protect our furry friends. Most namely the ban on sow stalls, the improvement of livestock slaughter and transportation standards, and the 2009 ban on sales or imports of cosmetics tested on animals.

The UK may not now have to abide by these regulations and may decide to abolish them altogether, taking bounds backwards in an already overlooked area.

Wildlife is intrinsically linked to what happens to the welfare laws of domestic and farm animals. If laws are slackened on livestock welfare and standards, and with the loss of the EU €3.5 billion farming subsidies, the likelihood is that most farmers will attempt to intensify their methods, increasing efficiency and productivity.

Artificial fertilisers and pesticides are a huge issue as they seep into waterways causing eutrophication. Vast corn monocultures can replace ancient British woodland, and although they look green and luscious, they are barren wastelands where biodiversity is concerned. It will be interesting to see what will become of the Birds, Habitats and Zoos Directives-some of the most important EU laws protecting our wild animals.

It seems our country has a rather foggy future for the next few years at least. In the current economic climate, it is likely the environmental agenda will be near the bottom of the pile, but we must all play our part to be the voice for nature. A group of nature enthusiasts called ‘AFON’ recently published its ‘Vision for Nature’ report which describes the views of young people on the future of the UK’s environment by 2050. This is a great example of what ordinary, young people can do to really make a difference.