The EU has been ahead of the curve on animal welfare


piglet and lambWhilst debate about the EU often focuses on the economic and political advantages, I wanted to put the spotlight on the EU’s largely overlooked role in improving the lives of animals. Over the past 25 years the EU has been responsible for improving the quality of animals’ lives and preventing cruelty. The bar has been raised not only in Britain but across all member states.

Improving lives of farm animals

The EU banned battery caged hens which had previously seen up to five chickens being held in a cage. These chickens were unable to even flap their wings and the hens were unable to escape aggression from other hens. EU legislation has also resulted in tangible improvements in the slaughter of farm animals. The law aimed to “minimise the pain and suffering of animals through the use of properly approved stunning methods”. It applies to the approximately 360 million pigs, sheep, goats and cattle and several billion poultry that are killed in EU slaughterhouses each year.

Banning Fur and Ivory Imports

The European Union imposed a ban on importing products made from seals. This was in light of the inhumane way that seals are often killed. Cat and dog fur was also banned by the EU. In 2014, the EU tried to pass a European-wide ban on importing ivory to help prevent the killing of elephants. Unfortunately, Nigel Farage and his UKIP MEPs voted it down in the European Parliament.

Promoting animal welfare standards in Britain and across Europe

Much of the progressive law that has improved animal welfare has come from the EU. In this policy area the UK has often not been as proactive as the EU in promoting animal welfare. Thanks to our membership we have been able to see animal welfare standards improve in our own country and across Europe. This means that less animals suffer unnecessarily.  For me, this is another very good reason for voting in favour for Britain to remain in the European Union.

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Richard Burden

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I was Labour Member of Parliament for Birmingham Northfield between 1992 and 2019 and a former Shadow Transport Minister. I now chair Healthwatch in Birmingham and Solihull, and the West Midlands Board of Remembering Srebrenica. I also work as a public affairs consultant. I am an effective community advocate and stakeholder alliance builder with a passion for human rights. I am a trustee of the Balfour Project charity and of Citizens Advice Birmingham, and a former Chair of Medical Aid for Palestinians.

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