In the light of MPs failing to back amendments on animal welfare and food production standards in the Agriculture Bill earlier this week, Dr Neil Hudson MP attempted to seek reassurance from the DEFRA Secretary of State that products that do not meet our high standards are considered off the table in future trade deals.
In a Parliamentary Question in the Commons earlier today Dr Hudson asked: “ As a veterinary surgeon, I was absolutely gutted that the vote on the amendment to uphold our high animal welfare and farming standards in trade deals was defeated this week in the Agriculture Bill. I am pleased that the Government has reassured that products such as chlorinated chicken and hormone treated beef will remain banned in the UK. But would my Right Honourable Friend agree with me that a practical solution to confirm this along with other products such as ractopamine-fed pork, excessive use of antimicrobials, or use of growth promoters would be to write these products into animal welfare chapters in trade deals? Would he agree that this makes it clear that these products are off the table, allowing other acceptable products to be traded and driving up animal welfare standards globally?”
In response George Eustice MP, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said “We will be using a range of tools to deliver on our manifesto to protect food standards and animal welfare in all of the trade agreements that we do and we have three principle tools that we can use. Firstly, we have the option to have prohibition on sales, that we already do on chlorine-washed chicken and on hormones in beef. Secondly, as he pointed out we can use the sanitary and phytosanitary chapter which is a feature of all trade agreements that determines the terms of access when it comes to food safety in particular. Thirdly, when it comes to issues such as animal welfare we will use tariff policy to prevent unfair competition on our farmers.”
Speaking after the session Dr Hudson said “I was grateful to the Secretary of State for a substantive response on the issues that I raised. I noted that he outlined the tools that are at the Government’s disposal when negotiating trade deals. I was pleased to hear that he referenced the sanitary and phytosanitary chapter which act as important protections regarding food safety. However, this food safety control will not cover animal welfare standards, and tariff policy will only work so far unless there are red lines on what products are unacceptable. So, I will keep my pressure on the Government to ensure that our high standards on food and animal welfare are not compromised. ”