This week, Prime Minister Theresa May received a letter from 23 of the UK’s biggest celebrities urging her to recognise animal sentience in law and warning that Brexit puts “the welfare of billions of animals at risk”.

The stars signed the open letter to show their support for the #BetterDealForAnimals campaign, which is calling for the UK government to recognise animal sentience in law and ensure that animal welfare policies are maintained and strengthened in the event of the UK leaving the European Union. #BetterDealForAnimals is run by a group of 36 prominent animal charities including – Humane Society International UK, the RSPCA, World Animal Protection, Four Paws, and Wildlife and Countryside Link.

The following celebrities co-signed the letter: Jilly Cooper, Mel C, Alesha Dixon, Peter Egan, Ben Fogle, Amanda Holden, Twiggy Lawson, Rula Lenska, Leona Lewis, Matt Lucas, Joanna Lumley, Evanna Lynch, Virginia Mckenna, Deborah Meaden, Thandie Newton, Lesley Nichol, Bill Oddie, Chris Packham, Simon Pegg, Sue Perkins, Will Travers, Lucy Watson and Pete Wicks.

Author Jilly Cooper, CBE said “As a passionate animal lover and owner of rescued ex-racing greyhounds, I am only too aware of the vulnerability of all animals and the horrific neglect and cruelty to which so many are subjected. It is absolutely crucial therefore that we really ensure that animal protection is strengthened not lost if Britain leaves the EU.”

The campaign for a #BetterDealForAnimals follows on from the public outcry over animal sentience law in late 2017, and has wide public support. New YouGov research published last week reveals that more than 8 out of 10 people (81%) think that animal welfare laws should be maintained or strengthened post-Brexit, while only 2% feel it might be acceptable to have weaker animal protections . In the letter, the celebrities say:

We support the #BetterDealForAnimals campaign and urge your government’s swift action to recognise animal sentience in law and ensure that UK animal welfare laws across the UK are maintained and strengthened in the event of the UK leaving the European Union. We are at a critical crossroads for animals in the UK – the welfare of billions of animals is at risk if the UK Government does not put in place a new law to replicate current EU animal protections. Losing these protections would mean the governments of the UK would no longer be legally bound to ensure good standards of animal welfare when creating new laws and policies.

Naturalist Bill Oddie, OBE said “Brexits may come, Brexits may go. Many of us will never even know what Brexit is! But we DO know what is right and moral when it comes to the treatment of animals. When and if the politicians make a decision, we must be absolutely sure that animal protection is not only on the agenda, but at the very top. Animals are beyond politics.”

“It is wonderful to see so many of the UK’s esteemed celebrities speaking out in support of a #BetterDealForAnimals” says a Better Deal For Animals campaign spokesperson. “Their plea to Theresa May to recognise animal sentience is echoed by the vast majority of Brits. We are a nation of animal lovers, it is only right that vital animal protections are maintained and strengthened as we leave the EU. We urge the government to make a firm legal commitment to safeguard animal welfare post-Brexit, without this we are at risk of putting the protections of billions of animals in jeopardy.”

Following public dismay about animal sentience law not being included in the Withdrawal Bill, the Government made firm commitments ‘to make sure Brexit delivers not just for the British people, but for animals too’. These included promises to be ‘a world leader in the care and protection of animals’ and that the Government would ‘strengthen our animal welfare rules’. Despite this, under current Government legislation plans, animals would receive less legal protection post-Brexit than they do under the EU.

This is because losing EU protections would mean the Government Departments would not have the same legal requirement to take account of animal sentience and welfare in all new laws, policy and their delivery. This would expose animals to major new threats such as:

New trade deals could permit imports of lower welfare animal products – such as chicken carcasses washed in chlorine and meat and dairy produced from hormone-treated animals – leading to a race to the bottom in UK farming standards to compete on price;

Building of terrestrial and marine developments, and major infrastructure projects, e.g. housing, motorways and offshore renewable developments, may not have to consider the animal welfare impact to the same extent as under EU rules, risking avoidable suffering of wildlife;

Government Departments and Agencies responsible for UK international aid could invest in overseas intensive farming systems banned in the UK due to poor animal welfare standards;

Wildlife management practices could more easily use inhumane methods, resulting in cruel and painful animal deaths

Disturbance of marine animals could be even harder to determine as a wildlife crime – leading, for example, to more dolphins being disturbed by thoughtless boat users.

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