EU Environmental and Animal Welfare Principles


About the Inquiry

The Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform (ECCLR) Committee has agreed to undertake an inquiry in to the EU Environmental and Animal Welfare Principles.


EU environment policy is based on Articles 11 and 191-193 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). It provides that Union policy on the environment shall contribute to pursuit of the following objectives:

  • preserving, protecting and improving the quality of the environment;
  • protecting human health;
  • prudent and rational utilisation of natural resources; and
  • promoting measures at international level to deal with regional or worldwide environmental problems, in particular combating climate change.

The TFEU states that policy on the environment shall be based on the “precautionary principle and on the principles that preventive action should be taken, that environmental damage should as a priority be rectified at source and that the polluter should pay. (European Parliament briefing, Treaty on the Functioning of the EU).

In November 2017 the Scottish Government stated that: 'This week’s EU Environmental Bureau conference was an opportunity to make clear that the four EU principles of precaution, prevention, pollution at source and ‘polluter pays’, which means that those who cause pollution should be responsible for paying the costs of managing it, are essential to maintaining Scotland’s environmental achievements'.

The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill does not roll over environmental principles into national law. Schedule 1 of the Bill rules out any general principles of EU law as a basis for challenge in UK courts following exit day. Some stakeholders have called for the Bill to convert all EU environmental law including environmental principles into UK law. In evidence to EAC on 1 November 2017, the Secretary of State for DEFRA (Michael Gove) stated that environmental principles would not be transferred into UK law, but would instead be embodied in policy guidance. He explained that they are “interpretative principles…to govern how policy is designed and devised” and should not be put on a statutory basis.

Following this, the UK Government announced proposals for a consultation in early 2018 which would explore “the scope and content of a new policy statement to ensure environmental principles underpin policy making”.

In relation to animal sentience a number of amendments were proposed during the EU Withdrawal Bill Committee stage in the Commons, aimed at including the principle in the Bill, however these were not successful. The Government announced on 12 December 2017 that it would be introducing legislation to recognise animal sentience and introduce tougher sentencing for animal cruelty offences. At the same time it published a short three clause draft Bill. The consultation closed on 31 January 2018. Following scrutiny of the draft Bill the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee recommended that the Bill be split to allow “the problematic concepts in the existing Clause 1 [on animal sentience] to be better defined”.


The Committee is seeking views on this inquiry.