Part II of a 5-part series
(See also Will U.K. leaving E.U. mean leaving animal welfare behind?, Farmed animals & money talks, What Brexit means for “pet passports” & lab animals and Back to the Jungle Book: U.K. wildlife law post-Brexit.)
LONDON, U.K.––Quipsters have it that Brexit, as the June 23, 2016 choice of United Kingdom voters to leave the European Union is called for short, is the world’s most successful diet plan, causing 64 million British citizens to lose pounds overnight.
The plummeting exchange value of the pound compared to the Euro, the U.S. dollar, Chinese RMB, and other major currencies hit the many overseas animal charities with fundraising arms, bank accounts, or global headquarters in Britain particularly hard.
Bears & bulls
“That the U.K. economy will, in the short run, turn bearish is beyond doubt,” observed longtime Blue Cross of India chief executive and Animal Welfare Board of India member Chinny Krishna in the first hours after the voting. “In the short run, there is very likely to be a negative impact,” Krishna accurately predicted. “The drop in value of the British pound vis-a-vis the other major currencies will greatly impact the projects funded overseas by British-based charities,” simply because each pound will buy less abroad.
Cushioning the shock
“However,” Krishna hoped, “if a large part of the funds of British-based charities are raised in other countries, these effects will be minimized.”
In other words, British-based charities such as World Animal Protection, formerly the World Society for Animal Protection, of which Krishna was a longtime board member, raise more money in the U.S. and continental Europe than within the U.K., and have the option of banking the money where it will better hold value.
On the other hand, Krishna said, “Non-British charities funded largely by entities in the U.K. will certainly see a sharp erosion or curtailment of available funds for their work.”
This would include, for example, the Animals Asia Foundation, and the many projects around the world sponsored by World Veterinary Services, The Donkey Sanctuary, the Brooke Hospital for Animals, the Society for Protecting Animals in North Africa (SPANA).
U.K.-raised funds fall 7% overnight
Confirmed Sean McCormack, the British-born founder of the PACK Sanctuary in Taiwan, “We have just seen our U.K.-raised funds drop 7% in value right as we need to have them changed into Taiwan dollars. We just raised £15,000 for new sanctuary gardens and lost over £1,000 after the Brexit announcement.”
For charities based within the U.K., with little if any overseas involvement, the immediate impact of Brexit was relatively slight.
Small, local charities less hurt?
“As Animal Concern is a small group and all our income comes from individuals within the U.K., mainly Scotland, this should not affect our finances unless it causes a major long-term economic downturn,” said Animal Concern chief executive John F. Robins.
Some British-based international charities will be hit directly.
Summarized Eleanor Goldberg, impact editor for the Huffington Post, “U.K. charities can expect to lose 217 million British pounds (about $296 million) every year, once Britain separates from E.U., according to Britain Stronger in Europe. That’s the amount of money those groups got in funding from the E.U. in 2014, the most recent year for which such data is available.”
But most of those charities do work which is only tangential to animal welfare.
“Oxfam Great Britain received the most money from the E.U. in 2014,” Goldberg continued. “It got 39 million British pounds ($53 million). The International Rescue Committee got nearly 23 million British pounds ($31.5 million).”
Nonprofits of parallel purpose
British-based nonprofit organizations whose work has other focuses, but tends to help advance animal welfare, appear to be proceeding on a business-as-usual basis, but with caution.
Said Program for Monitoring Emerging Diseases editor Larry Madoff, “I’m not sure what effects this might have on us. ProMED,” by far the largest network sharing information about animal disease outbreaks worldwide, “is part of a larger organization, the International Society for Infectious Diseases (ISID),” Madoff explained. “ProMED currently has only one staffer in the U.K., an associate editor. ISID’s president is actually based in the UK. We receive funding from the Wellcome Trust, which will be affected by the exchange rate.
“I can’t think of anything else right now,” Madoff told ANIMALS 24-7, “but I suspect other shoes may drop.”
“As of now I have heard of no budget plans,” said Martyn Stewart, a Seattle-based reporter who covers the Pacific rim for BBC Wildlife. “My schedule is written on an annual basis. I hopefully believe nothing will change in my situation. We still have programs to make.”
Brexit & agribusiness
By far the biggest animal issue associated with Brexit, both in terms of money and in the numbers of animals involved, is agribusiness, of which the most visible part is the export of animals raised in Britain, mostly cattle and sheep, to continental Europe, northern Africa, and the Middle East for “finishing” and slaughter.
“I voted Brexit!” proclaimed Julia Lewis, a veteran journalist who often writes about animal issues.
“Import/export of animals is something we all get very upset about,” Lewis elaborated.
“I was glad to see that during the final televised referendum debate this subject was raised by Selina Scott, a retired TV presenter who has become an animal campaigner. She was on the ‘Leave’ panel, alongside Steve Hilton, who used to be [one of former prime minister David] Cameron’s adviser.
“She said the main reason she wanted the U.K. to come out of the E.U. was to stop the live export of farm animals. Scott was telling the audience how cruelly animals like young lambs were treated, how they were driven packed into lorries thousands of miles before being slaughtered in places like Morocco.
“She was the only person who mentioned animals,” Lewis said, “so I was impressed.”
Local slaughter vs. Danish bacon
‘Before we joined the E.U.,” Lewis recalled, “we used to have local slaughterhouses, near to farms, which meant there wasn’t all this loading up of live animals and driving them miles and miles, which in itself is cruel.
“When it comes to farm animal welfare generally,” Lewis assessed, “I don’t think things will get worse with Brexit. We are always being told not to buy Danish bacon, but to stick to English bacon, because the Danes don’t have the same welfare standards we do. I don’t think ours are brilliant, but theirs are worse. I would say that we British think our animal welfare standards are generally higher than those in the rest of the E.U.”
Ad Standards Authority
What Lewis believes appears to be more-or-less what most United Kingdom voters believe. But the U.K. Advertising Standards Authority in February 2009 held misleading a British Pig Executive ad campaign which asserted that “British pig farms have very high welfare standards, assured by the Quality Standard Mark. And well cared-for animals mean better quality meat.”
The Advertising Standards Authority also ruled against British Pig Executive claims that British farmers have higher operating costs because they observe higher welfare standards than the rest of Europe.
The British Pig Executive, representing pig producers, was enjoined from further use of either claim.
The U.K. did have about 1,350 slaughterhouses when it entered the E.U. in 1973. Slaughter was even still conducted at The Shambles, the York slum from which came the expression a “shambles” to mean chaos and “shambling” to describe a reluctant walk, such as the walk of a condemned prisoner. Consolidation of the slaughter industry, however, has reduced the number of U.K. slaughterhouses to about 350 today.
But part of the reason for the consolidation was that the E.U. requires much more stringent and frequent sanitary inspection of slaughterhouses than the U.K. ever did before becoming an E.U. member. Strengthened E.U. regulations introduced in 1991 were followed in the U.K. four years later by the formation of the Meat Hygiene Service, which replaced the haphazard previous system of meat inspection by local agencies.
Livestock export trade diminished
Further, the trend toward consolidation of the slaughter industry has occurred even as the livestock export trade has diminished toward the vanishing point. Changing economic conditions could in theory bring live export back, but reality is that live export today is more a political issue and an animal advocacy rallying cry than a factor of significance in the meat trade.
At peak, in 1995, before the 1996 “mad cow disease” scare and a February 2001 foot-and-mouth disease outbreak killed the market for live exports in Europe, the U.K. shipped about 2.5 million live animals per year to the continent.
Battle of Brightlingsea
The shipment of 300,000 to 400,000 calves per year from Britain to be raised as crated veal in the Netherlands and Belgium in the early 1990s produced the Battle of Brightlingsea, as the British newspaper The Independent dubbed it. Protesters and livestock transporters fought almost nightly from January 1995 until the end of October 1995, when the transport routes were changed. During one of the frequent melees, demonstrator Jill Phipps, 31, was in February 1995 crushed by a cattle truck, becoming a prominent and still often remembered martyr to the animal advocacy cause.
Live exports in the present decade have by contrast averaged about 65,000 total hoofed animals per year.
Slaughter steadily rising
Almost unnoticed by protesters, the 350 slaughterhouses still operating within the U.K. have steadily increased the numbers of animals they kill to more than a billion per year, according to Humane Slaughter Association data. The annual toll includes 945 million chickens, 18 million turkeys, 14 million ducks, 9.8 million pigs, and 2.6 million cattle.
(This was Part II of a four-part series. See also Will U.K. leaving E.U. mean leaving animal welfare behind?, Farmed animals & money talks, What Brexit means for “pet passports” & lab animals, and Back to the Jungle Book: U.K. wildlife law post-Brexit.)
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