Brexit offers opportunities to improve farm animal welfare. However, these could prove illusory if new trade deals fail to protect UK farmers from being undermined by lower welfare imports. Public funding for farming should be completely reconfigured. Its principal purpose should be to provide public goods that the market cannot – or can only partially – deliver such as high environmental and animal welfare standards.
Industrial livestock production is dependent on feeding human-edible cereals to animals who convert them very inefficiently into meat and milk. Industrial livestock’s huge demand for cereals has fueled the intensification of crop production which, with its monocultures and agro-chemicals, has led to soil degradation, water pollution and biodiversity loss. Reduced meat consumption would allow the emphasis to be placed on pasture-based husbandry and rotational integrated crop/livestock systems. These need much less grain than industrial livestock production; this would ease the pressure to farm arable land intensively so enabling natural resources to be restored. Reduced meat consumption would allow animals to be farmed extensively to high welfare standards with minimal use of antibiotics. It would also contribute to meeting the Paris climate targets. Reduced consumption of red and processed meat would lower the incidence of non-communicable diseases.