Green Party leader Caroline Lucas says Brexit could pose a threat to the protection of animals in Britain.
Despite the country’s reputation as a nation of animal lovers, Lucas says ditching EU protocol could see the loss of rules which make sure they are treated as “sentient beings” rather than agricultural produce.
She has tabled an amendment to the Withdrawal Bill which would see animals granted a basic level of protection after March 2019.
The Brighton MP also written to environment secretary Michael Gove to ask him to take action on banning live animal exports, after he previously hinted the UK’s exit from the EU could signal an end to the controversial practice.
She told HuffPost UK: “I urge the secretary of state to make good his claim to care for animals by demonstrating that now.
“We also have an opportunity to end the vile cruelty of live animal exports once and for all - which minsters claim has not been possible due to EU rules. Such a move would both alleviate the suffering of animals, and send a strong signal that Britain will once again be a world leading on animal protection.
“We’re asking the government to think again, and adopt a couple of simple measures that will protect animals for years to come.
“British people want animals to be protected, and ministers must not sit on their hands any longer before taking this action.”
EU laws impose an eight-hour maximum journey time on live exports, but this can be extended if vehicles meet additional standards, including better ventilation and temperature regulation.
The letter from Lucas reads: “In practice, maximum journey times vary from 19 hours for calves to 24 hours for horses and pigs. Sheep can be transported for 14 hours, followed by a minimum one hour rest and then travel onward for a minimum of another 14 hours.
“The longer the time spent in transit, the greater the suffering. The UK has long insisted that it’s unable to ban live exports and end this suffering because of EU rules.
“Please can you assure my constituents and I that you are wholly committed to a ban on live exports by making the relevant legal changes now that are required for a ban to be in place from March 31st 2019 - the day on which the UK is due to formally end its membership of the EU.
“Animals are sentient beings, like us, and the law should protect them.”
Gove has said he will not allow the UK’s animal welfare standards to slip after Brexit.
Announcing the installation of CCTV in all abattoirs last month, the cabinet minister said: “We have some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world and the actions I am setting out today will reinforce our status as a global leader.”