On 20 February, David Cameron announced that the UK’s in/out referendum would be held this year, on the 23rd of June.

Quaker Concern for Animals has solicited views from a number of prominent animal advocates and animal protection organisations, in the interest of providing as comprehensive an overview as possible for our members and website visitors.

QCA does not endorse any of the specific views presented here. They are listed in the order we received response.

The issues are many and complex and it is our hope that in providing access to these viewpoints we will be helping individuals inform themselves as fully as possible on the matter, as they seek guidance both temporal and spiritual for the good of the worlds’ peoples and its animals.

We hope to add to this article as we receive responses and permission from additional parties we have contacted. We will notify our facebook likers and twitter followers as new submissions are posted.


This is a very complex issue and, in short, we cannot make a confident judgement of the consequences. As well as issues of animal protection there is the question of the subsidising regime that will replace CAP. While CAP has been generous to industrial scale farming, UK governments have always been intent on feather-bedding arable and animal producers. 

When it comes to animal protection issues, outcomes depend on the policy issue or legislation under consideration and the campaigning/lobbying effort people put into it.

In countries like Britain, animal protection issues have long been debated and battled over politically and commercially, and legislation coming out of the EU tends to have little real impact. However, for countries where there is little to no tradition of animal protection, the EU can provide a platform for substantial welfare advances. This is the case, for instance, with the recently introduced legal framework governing animal experiments [Directive 2010/63/EU]. But while the EU has the potential to take things forward in this way, because so many states and commercial vested interests are involved in the haggling process, new laws can take literally years, even decades, to emerge. And inevitably they get watered down, as did the recently introduced regulation on the welfare of egg-laying hens [Directive 1999/74/EC], which saw ambitions for a complete ban on battery cages reduced to mere tinkering with the design of the cages.

Clearly if we separate from the EU this dynamic will not apply insofar as Britain is concerned. We then have a free hand to either move in a progressive or reactionary direction without, it might be argued, the restraining/guiding hand of the EU.



Ian and I will be voting to leave because we have campaigned for the last 20 years to stop the export trade and we are constantly told that the UK is prevented from banning the trade due to the Treaty of Rome.

Even though the Treaty of Lisbon made animals sentient beings, when they go for export they revert to goods. We do not know if this is the best way but we would then only have one government to fight instead of 28; and the Commission has to look after so many countries who have no regard for animal suffering at all. Instead of their standards coming up to ours, we have to lower ours to accommodate them.

No matter what happens we will continue to fight to stop the trade totally, because even though our efforts have reduced it to a trickle we are conscious that without a ban it could increase at any time.

Mark Johnson, one of our members, is in touch with the Commission about the animals waiting at the Turkish border to cross into Turkey. Not only is the wait horrendous but when they eventually get there the conditions are like Dante’s Inferno and the cruelty is beyond belief  – yet the EU does nothing and one of the Commissioners is promoting the increase of calves from Ireland to Egypt, Libya and, when they can get into the trade, to Turkey as well. These people care nothing for the suffering and Turkey wants to become a member state. Do I want to be part of all this?

If we can stop animals from here we can then concentrate on then European trade without constantly looking over our shoulders.



CIWF have provided the following link for their viewpoint:



>     PETA

PETA has no position on whether the existence of the European Union is helpful or harmful. Rather, PETA acts to influence any national and international body that has a major impact on animals. PETA has acted in support of EU bans on seal products and cosmetic testing on animals.

Lobbying is a small part of PETA’s activities, and our limited resources are primarily directed to educating the public about activities that are harmful to animals and ways in which individuals can help stop animal abuse.



World Horse Welfare does not believe that the outcome of the EU Referendum in the UK will have any significant impact on equine welfare.  We are a worldwide organisation that has been influencing policy in Europe for nearly 90 years, including before the EU was formed and after the creation of the devolved administrations in the UK.  We are well used to a changing political landscape and will continue our strong tradition in influencing policy makers to improve the welfare of horses throughout Europe whatever the outcome of the referendum.



Matt Shardlow, Buglife CEO, writes

Britain’s membership of the EU has been good for bugs, bringing strong wildlife legislation, international cooperation and environmental improvements that have benefited invertebrates across the land, seas and freshwaters of the UK and the EU.

Buglife, the only charity in the EU dedicated to the conservation of all invertebrates, from bees to snails, has concluded that Brexit would pose a significant risk to the conservation of wildlife and hence could jeopardise our charitable objectives. Therefore we are taking a position that while there remain uncertainties, on balance, bugs across the EU would be better served by the UK remaining part of the EU.

We recognise that there are many factors for people to consider when deciding how to vote in June, but it may help them to know that the EU has benefited bugs in many ways and that in our expert opinion continuing to work closely with other countries in the EU to fix environmental problems should bring more benefits to the continent’s wildlife than the UK going it alone.  Buglife is not telling people how they should vote in the referendum, but ensuring that they better able to take a fully informed decision.

Buglife has produced the following more detailed analyses:
1)      A risk assessment setting out the potential risks and benefits to bugs from BREXIT.
2)      A blog from the CEO that give a perspective on his experience of conserving bugs in the UK and EU.
3)      An assessment of Buglife’s compliance with Charity Commission and OSCR guidance on the EU referendum.


>     RSPCA

The RSPCA have posted on the topic on their official blog:

The EU referendum and animal welfare, which includes a link to their full briefing.



Birds, bees and marine life in our oceans don’t understand borders. There are countless creatures that come and go into the British Isles. Whether we like it or not, we all have a shared environment in Europe. It applies to the air we breathe and the seas we swim in, and we need to govern them together.

Take bees for example. Across Europe, nearly 1 in 10 wild bee species are under threat. Since 1990, the UK has lost 20 species of bee. We cannot afford to keep losing these crucial pollinators.

The EU, in 2013, voted to restrict the use of 3 pesticides (called neonicotinoids) that are strongly linked to the decline of bees. At the time, the UK was lobbying against the restrictions. So if the EU hadn’t stepped in, our bees would be in even more danger.

Of course all EU standards aren’t perfect. The EU’s agriculture and fisheries policies have historically been poor for wildlife. But two things are for certain; first, we are in a much better position to lobby for better standards from the inside and second, if we were not part of the EU it is very unlikely that UK standards would be any better.

[excerpted by permission from 7 March Greenpeace blog post, read the post in full here]


>     RSPB

Martin Harper, RSPB’s Director of Conservation, states:

The outcome of the referendum on EU membership could have significant implications for the RSPB’s ability to fulfil its charitable objectives.

Given that nature knows no boundaries (for example birds migrate), the RSPB has always believed we need to act internationally especially as the threats (such as pollution) are often diffuse.  Comprehensive international agreements for nature conservation and the environment are therefore essential.

Evidence has shown that European legislation has helped to increase the populations of threatened species whilst also improving water and air quality.  Yet, some sectoral policies have caused environmental harm.

We believe that any reform or replacement of the Common Agricultural Policy should ensure public money is used to reward farmers who provide benefits to the public such as an attractive countryside rich in wildlife while also conserving the natural resources needed for long-term food production.

Any future policy for UK agriculture must recognise how highly people in the UK value our countryside, the environmental legacy we are leaving for future generations as well as our needs today.

Whatever the outcome of the Referendum the RSPB will advise and challenge the UK Government to meet both the needs of humans and of nature.

>     CASJ

Commentary from the Centre for Animals and Social Justice on the EU referendum:




>     GREEN PARTY (Keith Taylor MEP)

On animal welfare, a cause I am deeply committed to, we have achieved many unquestionably positive things together in Europe; the EU has improved conditions for animals where national governments have failed to act, and its influence is felt beyond European borders.

The EU brought in a blanket ban on animal testing for cosmetics; ended the use of great apes in animal testing, banned the import of products newly tested on animals and suspended the use of toxic bee-killing pesticides. On these issues, the UK’s leadership in Europe has driven up standards across the board, and that is something we should be proud of.

It was the EU that first recognised animals as sentient beings: Article 13 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU stipulates that, as sentient beings, full regard should be paid to animals’ welfare requirements. The EU aims to ensure that animals do not endure avoidable pain or suffering and to oblige animal owners or keepers to respect minimum welfare requirements. This has been the basis for so much subsequent legislation on animal welfare.

While our own Government is continuing to vigorously weaken these important safeguards – the UK Government has already tried to weaken laws on laboratory animals – it’s our shared laws which are working effectively to protect the wildlife and nature that we hold so dear.

Therefore, I believe that it is only by keeping our seat at the EU table that the UK can have a say. We all know the EU isn’t perfect, but let us celebrate the achievements we have made to protect our lives, our country, and our animals, and continue working together on the shared challenges we face.



Britain has led the way in Europe to raise the bar in animal welfare standards – for example the UK took action domestically to ban both battery cages for laying hens and calf veal crates and was instrumental in persuading other Member States to then agree to an EU-wide ban on these practices.

By being in Europe we can improve and promote animal welfare and ensure farmers are competing on a level playing field with the EU countries with which we trade. We can also press for more consistent and effective enforcement of EU welfare provisions.