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Pony in Field

Animal Protection Law

Animal protection law is any law which affects the welfare of animals. It is distinct from animal health law which is really designed to protect human beings or other animals and the law assigning liability for damage caused by one’s animals, although each of these can have welfare implications too.

A great deal of UK animal protection law comes from the European Union and that will continue to be the case whatever happens with Brexit. A huge swathe of EU legislation has an impact on animals. There are several other international treaties which affect animals, too, such as the World Trade Organisation, the Convention on the Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (the Bern Convention) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). There is burgeoning caselaw arising out of many of these, some of it highly technical.

In the UK, the law takes the form of Acts of Parliament, secondary legislation (such as regulations), caselaw, codes of practice and guidance.

A fundamental problem with animal protection law is that, gratuitous cruelty aside, it seeks to balance the interests of the animal against some human interest. The human interest could be cheap meat, research, entertainment, clothing, religious or cultural tradition. Inevitably, human beings get to decide when their interest trumps that of animal welfare and it is no surprise that welfare is often relegated in importance. This, allied to technological and commercial secrecy, explains the exponential increase in animal suffering at the hands of human beings, despite attitudes being generally more enlightened.

Advocates for Animals sees its role as to help clients achieve the maximum protection from existing laws and to suggest and draft new laws. We can also help with various parliamentary techniques such as questions and early day motions (or EU equivalents) and in responding to consultations.

Enforcement is a massive issue, too. All too often, public bodies fail to enforce properly even the inadequate protection given by legislation. There are various ways of ensuring that they do. Or you may need advice about what the law is in a particular area, here or abroad.

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