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A vote for the EU is a vote for animals

A vote for the EU is a vote for animals

| by Kerry McCarthy MP

Bristol played host to VegFest last weekend May 21st 22nd 2016. For vegans, vegetarians and omnivores alike, VegFest is a popular fixture in Bristol’s summer of festivals. I spoke on an issue that will not only be a defining moment of the summer, but will fundamentally affect the future of the UK - the EU referendum on 23rd June.


There are important economic and social justice arguments for Britain to remain in the EU, as well as strong arguments for Britain’s global influence, but I highlighted how our environment is cleaner, safer and healthier thanks to the EU, and how our animals are better protected in the EU.
From air pollution to the quality of our bathing waters, EU protections have ensured that we are no longer “the dirty man of Europe”. There is, though, much more progress to be made and there is a real danger that we will slide backwards without the EU pushing us forward and holding the Government to account for its environmental failings.


With animal welfare, we naturally tend to focus on the need for further improvement, but it’s worth reflecting on what a positive difference the EU has already made.


It is the EU that has banned animal testing for cosmetic products, the import of dog and cat fur, seal products from commercial seal hunts, leghold traps, whale killing and the import of whale products. It has also banned the use of driftnets to protect marine animals and is working to reduce the litter and pollution that poses such a threat to marine life.


The EU that has formally recognised animals as sentient beings, and sets standards on the treatment of farm animals: on freedom from hunger and thirst; freedom from discomfort; freedom from pain, injury and disease; freedom to express normal behaviour; and freedom from fear and distress. As part of this, the EU has banned tail docking, battery cages for hens and sow stalls. And EU labelling rules mean that the majority of eggs produced in this country are from higher welfare systems.


EU law requires all zoos to be inspected and licensed, regulates the transportation of live animals and it is through the EU cooperation that we will best co-ordinate further protections, such as ban on live exports.


The EU’s Nature Directives have protected our most threatened habitats, birds and other precious species that were previously on the brink of extinction.


There are of course areas where the EU could go further, but we cannot hope to influence the EU if we walk away. The Conservative Government’s shameful recent attempt to downgrade the Farm Animal Welfare Codes show it would be a mistake to hope the UK would have higher standards if we did leave.


Our membership of the EU means that we can seek to promote animal welfare not only in the UK, but also amongst 27 other countries and the EU’s trading partners. If we are to achieve our ambitions for animal welfare, we need to be ambitious about Britain’s place in the EU.


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