A controversial bill that puts animal welfare laws at risk was passed by ministers yesterday (Wednesday).

The RSPCA has warned that the UK's animal welfare standards could plunge, as 44 animal welfare laws carried over from the EU come under threat from proposed new UK government legislation.

The legislation debated yesterday in the House of Commons (the Report Stage of the REUL Bill) has made animals' lives better - battery farming for hens, growth promoters for farm animals and cosmetic testing on animals have been banned.

However, while 238 ministers voted against passing the bill, 297 voted for it.

Around 80 per cent of all major animal welfare laws in the UK were agreed upon when the UK was a member of the EU.

Existing laws including the battery hen ban, the ban on cosmetics testing on animals and the banning of growth promoters in farm animals are just some of the 44 animal welfare-related pieces of legislation brought over from the EU which are now in danger of being scrapped.  

The threat comes from the Retained EU law (Revocation & Reform) Bill - REUL - which sets out a filtering process to ascertain if a retained EU law should be continued.

Altogether, a total of 2,417 laws need to be assessed by the end of this year. The concern is that many of them - including the 44 animal welfare laws - could automatically be lost as time runs out, as laws will be revoked by default at that stage unless ministers actively move to save them.

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David Bowles, RSPCA's head of public affairs said: "It's crunch time for many key animal welfare laws that help make animals' lives better.  

"If inertia or a lack of commitment from the new administration results in the time running out before the filtering process of those 44 key pieces of animal welfare legislation can take place, those laws will automatically vanish into thin air.  

"That would be a tragedy. Not only would it be a huge backward step for animals but the UK government would have reneged on its commitment to maintaining high standards of animal welfare post-Brexit because around 80 per cent of all major animal welfare laws in the UK are those carried over from the EU."

According to the charity's Animal Kindness Index, eight out of ten people in the UK support animal welfare being protected by law.

The filtering process to ascertain if a retained EU law should be maintained is unclear.

Eighteen of the 44 pieces of legislation carried over from the EU which now require 'filtering' relate to farm animals - the largest body of legislation - but others protect our wild animals, animals in science and pets. 

The Retained EU law (Revocation & Reform) Bill will next be read in the House of Lords.