This dangerous piece of legislation threatens to undermine animal welfare and product standardsby Anna Bramall / May 20, 2020 / Leave a comment
Brexit requires the UK to have a new agricultural policy, and this will be defined in large part by the Agriculture Bill, once it has completed its passage through the House of Lords and any amendments have been considered.
Fellow vets, along with anyone else who cares about the environment, animal welfare and the quality of the food we eat, have good reason to be very worried about the Bill’s passing of third reading on 13th May, as yet unamended.
A majority of MPs voted against an amendment, new Clause 2, requiring new international treaties on the import of agricultural and food products to comply with World Trade Organisation safety rules and the UK’s own standards. It was put forward by the chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, Conservative MP Neil Parish, and was defeated after receiving the support of just 22 other Conservative MPs.
The proposed amendment would have protected our environment and animal welfare standards in future trade deals. As Parish wrote an article for the ConservativeHome website, “there is no point having world-leading standards in the UK if we do not expect trade partners to reciprocate.” This stance was supported by the British Veterinary Association, along with 26 signatories of a letter, including representatives of the National Farmers’ Union, RSPCA, Wildlife Trust, Friends of the Earth, Green Peace, Soil Association and WWF, sent to all MPs.
This letter proposed that “The Bill should ensure that agri-food imports are produced to at least equivalent environmental, animal welfare, and food safety standards as those required of producers in the UK… We have heard concerns that such an approach would prevent the UK achieving the maximum benefit from its decision to leave the EU. We believe the opposite is true.”
We now come to the crux of the issue. The government appears to have decided against incorporating these standards into law because, as former international trade secretary Liam Fox pointed out during his speech in parliament on the 13th:
“the US would walk were the proposals to become law in the United Kingdom, and it would be swiftly followed by others—the Australians, the New Zealanders and those involved in the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership would be…