NFA says a return to quarantine regulations would increase animal suffering

by Sue Cullinan
London
15 November 2017

British pet owners were shocked to learn this week that a failure to conclude a Brexit deal with the EU would make it harder to take pets to Europe.

EU negotiator Michel Barnier told French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche this week that “a failure of negotiations would have many consequences, including the ability of dogs and cats to cross the Channel.”

At the moment pet owners can take a dog, cat — or indeed a ferret — from the UK to the EU and back again without quarantine, provided that certain conditions are met, such as having a pet passport and the pet is micro-chipped.

“Quarantine is a cruel restriction on an animal and it would be going backwards to introduce this or any other measures likely to increase a pet’s suffering”’ said David Barritt, campaign director of the NFA.

Pet passports are issued by EU countries and a short list of other countries such as Greenland, Iceland and Switzerland.
The UK could be added to this list, but agreements would be needed to make this happen, said Barnier, it would not be automatic.

For pets from countries that do not issue passports, the EU distinguishes between listed and non-listed countries, depending on whether they have suitably robust surveillance and reporting systems for diseases such as rabies.

Pets from listed countries such as the US, Japan and Russia, need to have paperwork filled out, including health certificates from their vets, if they are to avoid blood tests or quarantine at the border. They have to have a test for rabies within three months of the date of travel.

The difficulties for British pets crossing the Channel would be the same for French and other EU pets crossing the other way.

Image (c) PA
Image (c) PA

Meanwhile Mimi Bekhechi, Director of International Programs for PETA, says that if the UK government carries on quietly letting go of welfare laws, Brexit will be worse than a nightmare for animals.

She says one troubling development has already taken place: the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, published in July 2017, omits Article 13 of the 2009 Lisbon Treaty. This article recognizes that animals are ‘sentient beings’ and requires EU member states to ‘pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals’ when developing policies.

“It’s crucial that Britain maintain – and build upon – the strong animal welfare standards that are written into EU law,” says Bekhechi.

The EU’s ban on testing cosmetics and their ingredients on animals, for example, prevents mice, rats, rabbits and other animals from being poisoned, blinded, burned and killed in cruel experiments. “Britain should at a minimum keep this ban and, better still, go one step further by joining the Netherlands and other countries in working to phase out the use of all animal testing,” she wrote in the Independent Newspaper.

Beagles are used for animal testing in the UK because of their docility and size. Picture Credit: Getty
Beagles are used for animal testing in the UK because of their docility and size. Picture Credit: Getty

Another important EU regulation is the ban on importing seal fur and substances derived from seals. “No country that calls itself civilized should trade in the barbarity that is seal slaughter: sealers bash baby seals in the head with hakapiks (heavy wooden clubs topped by a barbed metal hammer head) or shoot them with rifles and drag them across the ice – often while still alive – by a hook to the eye or mouth, before skinning them”, she says.

Bekhechi says that as a leader in animal welfare, Britain should take the additional step of banning imports of fur from all animals. “Investigations of fur farms across many fur-producing countries, including those with supposedly high welfare standards, have documented atrocities, including animals with untreated infections, missing limbs and festering open wounds (some so deep that their brains are visible); babies kept in cages with the rotting corpses of their mothers; and animals which exhibit neurotic behavior as a result of psychological damage.”

Fur farming is illegal in the UK, but the country has not legislated on the importation of fur from animals farmed in other countries.

Bekhechi says Britain must also work to phase out factory farming, which “causes misery on a massive scale and devastates the environment”. The EU’s 2013 ban on sow stalls prevents mother pigs from being locked in tiny, barren metal cages throughout their entire pregnancies.

And while the cruelty involved in foie gras production makes it illegal to produce in the UK (ducks and geese are force-fed up to four pounds of grain and fat daily, causing their livers to become grossly distended, sometimes up to 10 times their normal size), it’s still legal to import foes gras from elsewhere. “Brexit is a golden opportunity for Britain to stop sending a mixed message and take a stand against this ‘torture in a tin’ by banning imports and sales of foie gras”, she says.

“We claim to be a nation of animal lovers and were even the first country in the world to introduce animal-protection legislation,” says Bekhechi. “Whatever side we’re on in the Brexit debate, we can agree that this is a turning point in Britain’s history and a moment to honor that legacy and define the type of country that we want to be in the future. Let’s be one that protects the most vulnerable and treats all species with kindness – and let’s make it the law.”