This article was first posted on Huffington Post.
It is sometimes said the European Union plays a major role in the protection of animals across the globe. However, this is not a subject that critics of the Union put under the microscope on a regular basis. When critical stories do arise they come as no surprise to those of a Eurosceptic persuasion.
Last weekend the latest EU animal rights scandal broke.
The EU’s Scientific Review Group has outrageously decided to make a U-turn on an earlier decision to suspend imports of Elephant hunt trophy imports from Zambia.
In April, their exports of elephant trophies were stopped after serious concerns about severely low elephant population levels. But that decision has now been reversed.
The same EU group have also agreed to continue allowing imports of lion hunting trophies from Tanzania, Zambia and Mozambique. Remember when Cecil the Lion was shot by that dentist? This means Cecil’s feline friends and relatives, can now be legally imported into the EU without any restrictions at all!
In a timely intervention on Chinese State Television recently, Prince William made a direct appeal to the Chinese people to boycott ivory and other illegal wildlife products just hours before the landmark State visit to England by the country’s President Xi Jinping this week.
Speaking on Chinese state television, Prince William said elephants, rhino and other endangered species will be extinct by the time children born this year – including his daughter Princess Charlotte – reach the age of 25, unless China ceases its demand for poached wildlife parts. “Rhino horn cannot cure cancer,” he added.
With recent reports revealing trophies such as elephant skin handbags and bracelets are being imported into Britain, it seems as though Brussels has taken a view on the issue of ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’.
Then there’s wildlife trafficking.
Much like the free-movement of people, there is also the free movement of animals amongst those in mainland Europe. Now this may sound like a bizarre thing to point out, but bear with me.
With free movement of people comes the ability to traffic drugs, people and animals across the continent without being stopped. This means animals illegally smuggled into the EU from other parts of the world – commonly lizards and reptiles from Africa – can then be easily be transported across the EU’s borders.
This potentially causes a number of issues:
Firstly, animals are forced to undertake extremely long journeys without any respect for their welfare. This can cause immense suffering. If you have illegally smuggled hundreds of animals into the continent, you are unlikely to be overly fussed when it comes to protecting their wellbeing.
Secondly, diseases from countries outside the EU, such as rabies, are still at high levels. All it takes is one animal to slip across the borders and to come in to contact with others and an epidemic will ensue. This is a theory which has already been noted by veterinary surgeons in recent years, and although the chance of this occurring is low, it is not completely absent.
Animal trafficking across the world is now a multi-billion pound crime. It is not a rarity, yet it is not something we hear being discussed on a daily basis.
This problem also includes trafficking from within the Union itself. In 2014, the ‘Puppy Smuggling scandal’ broke. Dog lovers who believed they were buying healthy pets which had been vaccinated against deadly diseases were being conned by fake pet passports. Instead they were purchasing animals which had not been properly health-checked and posed a risk to other animals in the UK.
In 2013 news came out that British taxpayers were helping to fund bullfighting in Spain, through the Common Agriculture Policy. With 78% of the public in the UK against this so-called ‘sport,’ and with nearly as many against it in Spain – it came as a huge shock the European Union should fund such a disliked attraction – or perhaps not. Are we really still shocked when we hear Brussels has gone against the will of the people? Of course not!
The EU still sends large numbers of animals for slaughter in countries outside Europe – in filthy, cramped housing – which would be illegal inside the EU itself. Exports of livestock to nations outside of the EU are on the rise, and still without any measures to ensure the proper treatment of animals once they leave the Union.
Exporting animals to war zones has not been unknown in recent years either. Here the authorities are completely unable to ensure proper slaughter conditions. In 2014, around one million animals were exported to war-torn Libya, and until recently millions of pounds worth of livestock were sent to Syria.
Then there are 11.5 million animals a year experimented on for ‘scientific’ purposes across the EU. Although the moral debate of such experimenting is one in which many people have conflicting opinions, the Commission have promised to cut down – at some point in the future. So far, evidence of such, or plans to do so, have yet to be seen.
Then there’s TTIP (the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership).
It has been suggested the American meat and dairy industries are pushing to eliminate or weaken animal welfare standards, saying they are ‘barriers to trade’. For instance, the pig housing regulation which came into force in the EU in 2013 is being targeted as part of ongoing negotiations. This will be a big step backwards for animal welfare in Europe.
The fact of the matter is, the European Union is just too big to properly regulate everything. It’s common sense to say it would be much easier to control the welfare of animals across a much smaller region. Yes, there is legislation from Brussels to prevent cruelty, but this is not working.
Britain has always been a front runner when it comes to animal husbandry issues. As a farming and pet loving nation we should be proud of that. To ensure this high level of animal welfare continues, we must Get Britain Out of the EU.