The UK’s largest animal welfare charity has warned that the new Trade and Agriculture Commission is just a ‘Trojan horse’ that risks undermining the nation’s world-leading farm and food standards.
Giving its backing to The Mail on Sunday’s Save Our Family Farms campaign, the RSPCA criticised the Government’s failure to make sure that the UK’s tough welfare and environmental techniques would be enshrined in another post-Brexit trade deal with the usa.
It also attacked the new commission – create by International Trade Secretary Liz Truss to tackle concerns that the deal with America could allow inferior products and services to flood Britain – for being a ‘Trojan horse which fails to fulfil the Government’s manifesto promises to safeguard welfare standards’.
It also attacked the brand new commission – set up by International Trade Secretary Liz Truss (pictured) to tackle concerns that the deal with America could allow inferior products and services to flood Britain – for being a ‘Trojan horse which fails to fulfil the Government’s manifesto promises to safeguard welfare standards’
Announcing information on the commission, whose members are drawn from industry and farming bodies, Ms Truss a week ago insisted that she was ‘putting British farming first’ and that ‘our high food and animal welfare standards won’t be compromised’.
But the RSPCA criticised Ms Truss for failing to appoint a single representative from the pet welfare sector on the 16-member board. RSPCA leader Chris Sherwood said: ‘Our real concern is that the commission is going to be a Trojan horse for deregulating and reducing our outstanding farm welfare standards.’
While Mr Sherwood welcomed the independence of Tim Smith – a former Food Standards Agency boss who has been named as the commission’s chairman – that he questioned perhaps the panel could have teeth, considering that its findings will only be advisory.
‘When the commission publishes its report, Parliament needs to have the opportunity for transparent debate on its recommendations and the ability to pass a binding resolution,’ said Mr Sherwood.
Announcing information on the commission, whose members are drawn from industry and farming bodies, Ms Truss a week ago insisted that she was ‘putting British farming first’ and that ‘our high food and animal welfare standards won’t be compromised’
‘We don’t want this to be something where the report gets buried or is kicked to the proverbial long grass. Instead, we want to visit a cast iron, legal guarantee in the Agricultural Bill that our animal welfare standards will be protected in future free trade deals.
‘We want to see the UK exporting our leading farm and animal welfare standards around the world – championing our high standards and ensuring that food coming into the UK, which is unlawful to produce here, is not allowed in.’
Mr Sherwood said the Conservative Party made a manifesto pledge before last year’s Election to safeguard animal welfare standards.
Ministers insist they will not undermine UK standards in any future trade deal but farmers and campaigners were left furious in May each time a bid to enshrine the promise in to law as part of the new Agricultural Bill was defeated. There will also be fears that farmers will soon be undercut by low-quality imports from countries which have weaker welfare standards.
Mr Sherwood warned this could cause a flood of chlorinated chicken, hormone-fed beef, pork created from sow-stall systems, and egg products from hens in battery cages.
‘The reason why chlorine is used is because chickens are kept in such filthy conditions and their waste isn’t removed when they are slaughtered,’ that he said. ‘That wouldn’t happen here because of our animal welfare rules.’
Environment Secretary George Eustice has previously called animal welfare law in america ‘woefully deficient’.
The RSPCA will support the Commission, but Mr Sherwood urged the Government to go further by amending the Agricultural Bill to enshrine their commitment to our animal welfare standards.
‘Without this clear, legal protection, the Government is leaving the door open to rolling back on these promises and negotiating away these crucial protections,’ he said.
‘Brexit gifts an opportunity: to safeguard our farm animals and protect British farmers, making Britain a beacon for higher welfare production, and we urge the Government to grasp this.
‘This stuff really matters. Agricultural Bills only get passed very rarely because they take an awful lot of parliamentary time. This Bill could be our legislation for the next ten to 20 years. This is about future-proofing farm animal welfare standards and ensuring that they’re safeguarded for a generation.’
The RSPCA’s intervention came as Mr Smith needed ‘cool heads and thoughtful discussion’.
Calling for ‘an international coalition that helps advance higher animal welfare standards across the world’, that he expressed hope that the UK’s ‘world-leading’ animal welfare standards could influence World Trade Organisation policy.
However, that he failed to eliminate chlorinated chicken and hormone-fed beef being allowed to the UK as part of a US trade deal.