Part IV of a five-part series.
(See also Will U.K. leaving E.U. mean leaving animal welfare behind?, Farmed animals & the Brexit “diet plan,” Farmed animals & money talks, and Back to the Jungle Book: U.K. wildlife law post-Brexit.)
LONDON, U.K.––Among the signal achievements for animal welfare during the 43 years that the United Kingdom has been part of the European Union were the 2003 introduction of a “pet passport” scheme and the 2013 elimination of animal testing requirements for cosmetic products.
The “pet passport” scheme, used to demonstrate that dogs, cats, and ferrets are healthy and have been vaccinated, bypassed the costly six-month quarantines that had been required since 1910 for dogs, cats, and ferrets entering the U.K. from any other nation.
The quarantines were formerly required even for animals brought from nations which had been rabies-free for longer than the U.K. itself, some of which had never had any reported canine rabies.
Rabies & the British Empire
Indeed, while canine rabies appears to have entered Europe originally from the east, the soldiers, sailors, and camp followers of the British Empire had a seminal role in distributing canine rabies worldwide.
Alexandre Liautard, who went on to found the American Veterinary Medical Association in 1863, in 1857 contributed to The New York Times an in-depth account of the global spread of rabies and evolution of rabies control methods which “credited” British dogfighters with spreading canine rabies to Crete, from whence rabies spread to India, probably also with pit bulls bred for fighting and baiting.
Led in rabies eradication
But, if Britain took the lead in spreading canine rabies, Britain was also among the first nations to eradicate it. The last human death from canine rabies within the U.K. occurred in Wales in 1902, but canine rabies persisted among dogs for 20 years longer.
Founded in 1891 specifically to oppose the use of dogs in vaccine development, the National Canine Defence League (renamed Dogs Trust in 2003) nonetheless took the lead in rabies eradication.
After the passage of the Dogs Law 1910, which imposed the quarantine for imported dogs, and introduced a national requirement that dogs be licensed and vaccinated, the NCDL began subsidizing the vaccination and licensing of dogs of the poor, a mission it continued until 1987.
Introduction of the “pet passport”
Replacing the quarantine requirement with the European Union-brokered “pet passport” took decades of lobbying, mostly in London, before Parliament and the British public were persuaded that the E.U. policies pertaining to vaccination and animal movement could keep rabies on the far side of the English Channel, even after the E.U. eradicated not only canine rabies but also fox rabies from member nations––a status lost, unfortunately, after the E.U. expanded eastward.
Almost overnight the introduction of the “pet passport” facilitated commerce in both “puppy mill” and “rescue” dogs from the less affluent parts of the E.U.
There have been breaches of the “pet passport” requirements. Rabid dogs have several times entered the western E.U. nations from North Africa and eastern Europe. But despite the June 2016 vote of a 52% majority of U.K. residents to leave the E.U., there appears to be little support for re-imposing the pre-“pet passport” quarantine law.
Keeping the RSPCA busy
Assessed British journalist Julia Lewis, who favored Brexit, “I’m sure we will continue to take in rescue dogs from places like Croatia, Spain and other places [where imported dogs turned out to be rabid]. Brexit won’t stop that. The other thing that’s happening now is that the East Europeans are smuggling in puppies, usually ‘designer’-type breeds, but often they die because they haven’t vaccinated them or they have taken them away from their mothers far too early. That’s keeping the Royal SPCA busy at the moment, and proving quite difficult, because inspectors often have to go undercover or work by night to catch them unloading the puppies from their unmarked vans.”
Offered Helmut Dungler, president of the Austria-based international animal charity Vier Pfoten, “The U.K. might now be able to regulate the import of certain animals more effectively. Since the relaxation of E.U. quarantine rules in recent years,” Dungler acknowledged, “there have been various problems with the import of animals into the U.K., sometimes coming from terrible conditions and even posing potential health risks.
“This has been seen particularly in terms of the import of puppies from puppy farms in other parts of Europe,” Dungler said affirming Lewis’ perspective. “While it is not clear exactly how this issue would be policed going forward, many hope that tighter control of the U.K. borders could limit the trade in illegal puppies and other animals.”
“Business as usual”
Said Dogs Trust chief executive Adrian Burder, who in 2014 succeeded 30-year chief executive Clarissa Baldwin [see Humane innovator Clarissa Baldwin retires from Dogs Trust], “It’s business as usual for Dogs Trust. We remain fully committed to all our projects. And that includes our work in the E.U. and elsewhere in the world. We are planning to expand our activities next year, including an increase in international work,” Burder pledged.
“Least regulated area”
Within the scope of E.U. law pertaining to animal welfare, “Companion animals is the least regulated area,” according to a Royal SPCA policy paper on Brexit. “Three laws provide rules allowing free commercial and non-commercial movement of dogs and cats provided they have been identified and vaccinated. There is an import ban on products made from dog and cat fur.
“Standards on animal cruelty are set individually by England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland,” the RSPCA paper explains, “and are not impacted by Brexit. These include the Animal Welfare Act 2006, the framework law in England and Wales.
“Specific legislation on companion animal welfare under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 will continue,” the RSPCA paper affirms. “This includes standards on the tail docking of dogs, the ban on the use of shock collars in Wales, and a raft of legislation the government is considering now on the breeding, boarding and selling of dogs, the licensing of horse riding establishments and the selling of all animals. Sentencing is also not part of the EU acquis and is devolved. It will not be impacted.”
Vet practice abroad
World Veterinary Services founder Luke Gamble identified a Brexit issue, however, that the RSPCA overlooked: possible loss of the ability of U.K.-based veterinarians to work in E.U. nations.
Many British veterinarians routinely volunteer during their vacations to assist animal charities and help to train local veterinary personnel in eastern Europe and the Mediterranean region.
“From an entirely selfish perspective,” Gamble said, “anything that hampers my capacity or that of British vets in World Veterinary Services to help champion animal welfare in Europe is a bad thing. Leaving the single market will require us to seek further permissions to work in Europe,” even as volunteers, “and the extent of this is yet to be determined.
“The honest truth is that none of us really fully understand the implications of leaving the E.U.,” Gamble told ANIMALS 24-7. “Personally, I was very much against it, believing it a general backward step in the big picture.”
Use of animals in labs
“The use of animals in research,” the RSPCA policy paper on Brexit mentions, “is regulated by four different [E.U.] laws covering the keeping, transportation and use of animals in laboratories, the prohibition of the testing, marketing and imports of cosmetic products tested on animals, and legislation on cloning.”
Of the relevant E.U. legislation, the 15-year phase-out of animal testing requirements for cosmetics and cosmetic ingredients, completed in March 2013, is widely regarded as the most momentous achievement worldwide, at least to date, on behalf of laboratory animal welfare.
“Aside from the financial implications for all nonprofit organizations here, we at Cruelty Free International are particularly concerned about the impact on E.U. Directives and ensuring that we retain the progress that we have made on areas such as the E.U.-wide cosmetics testing ban,” CFI chief executive Michelle Thew told ANIMALS 24-7.
Hard to advance without E.U. support
The cosmetics testing ban itself appears likely to stand up regardless of Brexit, but making further progress within the U.K., independent of E.U. pressure, may be difficult because of the proportionally greater size of the U.K. biomedical research industry.
European Union member nations use about 11.5 million animals per year in laboratory procedures, about four million of them used by the six largest university laboratories in the U.K.
As of 2013, the University of Edinburgh used 241,865 animals in experiments, followed by Oxford University (190,169), University College London (181,295), Cambridge University (169,353), King’s College London (132,885), and Imperial College London (130,358).
Animal use increasing
Each of these institutions uses more animals by itself than some other entire E.U. nations.
British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection data suggests that at least 67 of the 156 registered universities in the U.K. do some animal research. About 75% of the animals used are mice; 3,000, as of 2013, were monkeys.
Of most concern to animal advocates is that the numbers of animals used in experiments in the U.K. increased 37% between 2000 and 2013, including an 8% jump in 2012 alone, after more than 20 years of tapering off. Nearly half of the animals used ––1.9 million of 4.1 million total––have been genetically modified to facilitate research. This produces the paradox that while far fewer animals are used per experiment now than before 2000, more experimentation than ever before is being done.
(Part IV of a five-part series. See also Will U.K. leaving E.U. mean leaving animal welfare behind?, Farmed animals & the Brexit “diet plan,” Farmed animals & money talks, and Back to the Jungle Book: U.K. wildlife law post-Brexit.)
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Julia Lewis says
I can’t imagine Brexit will prevent UK vets from helping out on the Continent (as we used to call Europe – the other side of the Channel). My own vet in London used to take time off to go over to places like Malta and do spaying and neutering in a vet surgery there. Not being in the EU won’t stop people offering their services free of charge. After all, you could travel very freely BEFORE the EU came into existence (I’m old enough to remember that) and you could even find work, as I did in an office in Italy. “Remainers”, tend to spread gloom and doom!
Merritt Clifton says
Brexit will stop British veterinarians and other professionals from working or volunteering in the E.U., without their going through an extensive re-credentialing procedure, if the E.U. does not agree to recognize British credentialing at par. Since the E.U. exists in the first place to protect and regulate markets, there is no intrinsic reason why professionals on the Continent should welcome British competitors, or volunteers who are providing services that otherwise would have to be paid for.