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British celebs send open letter to PM demanding a better Brexit deal for animals

23 high-profile British celebs including Joanna Lumley, Thandie Newton, Alesha Dixon, Simon Pegg and Matt Lucas send open letter to Theresa May demanding a better Brexit deal for animals

26 February 2019

London (25 February 2019) - This morning, 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 full list of charities in the coalition are included in the appendix below].

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 [further poll results can be seen in Appendix 3 below].


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.

The full letter can be read here, the full letter text is also included in Appendix 2 below.

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
The campaign is already gaining traction in Westminster; prominent MPs of all political colours have pledged their support. The coalition is holding a Parliamentary Reception event in Westminster this Tuesday (26th February) that is sponsored by Nic Dakin MP (Lab), Zac Goldsmith MP (Con), Tim Farron MP (Lib Dem), and Deidre Brock MP (SNP). Rt. Hon. Michael Gove MP, Secretary of State for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, and Shadow Secretary of State Sue Hayman MP will be speaking at the event. Green Party Leader Caroline Lucas will also be attending.


Take action: Ask your MP to attend the #BetterDealForAnimals Parliamentary event this Tuesday here: www.wcl.org.uk/better-deal-for-animals

Media contact:
HSI UK: Harriet Barclay, HBarclay@hsi.org, (+44) 0 7794354596
World Animal Protection: George White, georgewhite@worldanimalprotection.org.uk

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

1. The 36 organisations backing these calls are: Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, Animal Aid, Animal Defenders International, Animal Equality United Kingdom, Animal Protection Agency, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, Badger Trust, Born Free Foundation, Catholic Concern for Animals, Cats Protection, Change for Animals Foundation, Christian Vegetarian Association, Compassion in World Farming, Cruelty Free International, Crustacean Compassion, Dogs Trust, Four Paws, the Humane League, Humane Society International, International Animal Rescue, IFAW, League Against Cruel Sports, Mayhew, Naturewatch Foundation, OneKind, PDSA, PETA, Quaker Concern for Animals, RSPCA, The Donkey Sanctuary, Save Me Trust, Shellfish Network, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, Wild Welfare, Wildlife and Countryside Link, and World Animal Protection.

2. Full Letter text

Dear Prime Minister,

We support the #BetterDealForAnimals campaign and urge your government’s swift action to recognise animal sentience in law and ensure that 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. This would expose animals to major new threats such as: trade deals that allow imports of lower welfare animal products, leading to UK farmers lowering their welfare standards to compete on price; animals’ welfare needs being overlooked in planning major infrastructure developments, such as new motorways or airports; and an expansion of inhumane wildlife management practices, like cruel culls.

We also support calls for an independent expert body to provide advice to Ministers at all levels of government to ensure that they are fulfilling their duty to animal welfare, and ensure that policy decisions are underpinned by the best scientific and ethics expertise.

We welcome your government’s pledge to be a ‘world leader on animal welfare’. You have before you an important test of that commitment. Please choose the right path, and give voiceless animals the legal protections they need and deserve.

Sincerely

Jilly Cooper CBE, Mel C, Alesha Dixon, Peter Egan, Ben Fogle FRGS, Amanda Holden, Dame Twiggy Lawson DBE, Rula Lenska, Leona Lewis, Matt Lucas, Joanna Lumley OBE, Evanna Lynch, Virginia Mckenna OBE, Deborah Meaden, Thandie Newton OBE, Lesley Nichol, Bill Oddie OBE, Chris Packham CBE, Simon Pegg, Sue Perkins, Will Travers OBE, Lucy Watson and Pete Wicks

3. Additional YouGov Poll results:

  • Voters for all the main political parties believe that animal welfare laws should be maintained or made more extensive than they are now – 86% of Conservative voters, 84% of Labour voters and 82% of Lib Dem voters
  • 80% of the British public want post-Brexit Government trade deals to have clear requirements that imported animal products meet or exceed British animal welfare production standards. Only 6% say this should not be a requirement
  • Almost 7 out of 10 (68%) want legal requirements to ensure that animal welfare is protected, to the greatest extent possible, when new laws and policies are made. Only 3% oppose this
  • Less than a third (31%) of the public are confident that the UK Government will live up to its promises of being a world leader on animal welfare, 56% say they are not confident
  • Two-thirds (66%) want an animal protection committee established to give expert independent advice to government on safeguarding animal welfare
  • All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,825 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 4-5 February 2019. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+). The full results can be viewed here. YouGov is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by their rules