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The Impact of Brexit on Cruelty Free Accreditation

What does Brexit mean for Animal Cruelty in the UK

As the United Kingdom gears up for its departure from the EU, concerns are growing in relation to the treatment of animals and how they will be affected. The good news is that the Animal Welfare Act 2006 will serve as protection for domestic animals after we leave the EU. Sadly, the same cannot be said for free living wildlife.

Disclusion of Animal Sentience in UK Withdrawal Bill

In November 2017, there was public outcry as MPs voted against recognising animal sentience (the capacity to experience emotions such as pain or suffering) into the EU Withdrawal Act 2018. 

Dismissing sentience from the Bill will provide animals with less legal protection after Brexit, as government departments will have no obligation to consider sentience and welfare into new laws or policies.  

The Animal sentience was added to the EU law in 2009 through the Lisbon Treaty, and came into practice after years of campaigning from animal rights activists. The proposal to transfer the protocol on animal sentience into UK legislation (15th November) was denied by 313 votes, whilst 295 were in favour of including the EU protocol.

The UK has protections in place relating to farm animals, to companion animals, to animals in transport, to animals at markets and to animals at slaughter. Our legal requirements are backed by 15 statutory animal welfare codes. Covering both farm animals and companion animals’, said Environment Secretary Michael Gove, addressed in a letter.

Michael Gove said the sentience of animals would still be recognised and protected after leaving the EU. Gove spoke of how animal welfare standards will be improved in a written statement.

These are the proposed revisions:

  • Mandatory CCTV in all slaughterhouses
  • Draft legislation to imprison animal abusers for up to 5 years
  • A proposal on combatting elephant poaching
  • Ban on microbeads

Testing Beauty Products on Animals in the UK    

Between 1997 and 2006, government figures showed 7,184 animals were used for testing products such as bleach and disinfectants.

Britain became the first European country to ban cosmetic companies from testing on animals in 1998, companies were already banned from testing finished beauty products on animals but this did not include the testing of ingredients.

The banishment of animal testing

  • Between 1997 and 2006, government figures showed 7,184 animals were used for testing products such as bleach and disinfectants.
  • In 2004, the EU made steps to preventing animal testing, but only of finished cosmetic products across the EU (this did not include the testing of ingredients).
  • In 2009, it was illegal to test cosmetic ingredients on animals. Excluding the testing of repeated dose toxicity, reproductive toxicity and toxicokinetics.
  • On March 11th 2013, the EU introduced a ban on the sale of all new cosmetic products that had been tested on animals.

The Great Repeal Bill

The 1972 European Communities Act, which puts EU laws into effect; will be instantly annulled by the Great Repeal Bill at the end of 2020. Without the recognition of sentience in animals, is it possible that the UK would consider legalising the testing of cosmetics on animals in the future?  

What we know so far

As the United Kingdom prepares to leave the EU on 29th March 2019, it is still unclear exactly on what we can expect when it comes to cosmetic testing. Whilst the government has issued statements addressing the concerns in regards to animal welfare, opinions are still ripe as to whether Brexit will see a new rise in animal testing, especially without the law acknowledging sentience in animals. Although testing is banned in the UK, there are countries outside the EU where it still occurs. 

Going forward the UK government has confirmed they will keep the current ban on selling any cosmetic products that have been tested on animals in place. After leaving the EU, current existing laws will still play a part as PM Theresa May has announced plans to keep EU laws for a further 21 months.

This means all existing laws and regulations for the cosmetics sector will remain in place and all cosmetics sold in the UK will continue to comply with the European Cosmetics Product Regulation. 

“Brexit could be a real opportunity for the UK to demonstrate to the world that it really is the global champion of animals. Instead of simply preserving the status quo, the government can use this as a springboard to increase efforts to stop the cruel use of animals in experiments. This is a unique chance for the UK to step up and become world leaders in the development of cutting-edge alternatives to end this outdated practice for good. Let’s not waste it,” says Kerry Postlewhite, Director of Public Affairs. 

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