Better animal welfare is one of Brexit’s great opportunities

Better animal welfare is one of Brexit’s great opportunities

Eating Better recently published the following blog post written by David O’Sullivan at ShareAction about Peter Stevenson’s Food Thinkers seminar on Brexit and animal welfare


Brexit is almost upon us. The UK is preparing to take its leave from Brussels: casting off the shackles, or reluctantly becoming unmoored, depending on your politics. Either way, once the triggering of Article 50 occurs, it could usher in sweeping changes to the UK policy landscape. All manner of industries will be adjusting to doing business outside the EU – including in the agricultural sector. For those campaigning to develop sustainable food systems, this is of particular interest. Once the UK is out, how can we ensure the sector changes for better, not worse?

This was the subject of a lecture given by Compassion in World Farming’s Peter Stevenson, as part of the Food Research Collaboration’s Food Thinkers seminar series. A lawyer by trade, Stevenson has worked over the years to secure EU bans on the use of battery cages, veal crates, and other practices that violate animal welfare. He also managed to ensure the recognition of animals as sentient beings in EU law. In his view, Brexit is an opportunity to enhance the UK’s standards – the question is whether the country will use it.

Notable progress has already been made, though there is still much more to be done. Intensive farming methods remain widespread, even though they are grossly unsustainable. Factory farms need industrial quantities of animal feed and often divert food fit for human consumption into cattle troughs – this in turn drives intensive crop production, which is hugely damaging to the environment. As infection rates are higher amongst factory-farmed livestock, they are often routinely fed antibiotics. This contributes to antimicrobial resistance, with new strains of bacteria developing that can resist antibiotics used in human medicine. Furthermore, many cruel practices – like the use of farrowing crates, in which pregnant sows are kept in close confinement – are rife.

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