The RSPCA says its concerns over animal welfare standards remain after the Agriculture Bill Committee failed to ensure that those standards will be protected in future trade agreements.
The Committee’s debate in the House of Lords focused on proposals to put animal welfare at the heart of the UK’s trade policy and ensure lower welfare imports do not undercut British farmers, the creation of a ‘Trade Commission’ and gene editing.
It concluded with no solid agreement made by the Government as to how it will fulfil its manifesto commitment to ensure the UK’s farm welfare standards are upheld in any trade agreement.
Chris Sherwood, chief executive of the RSPCA, said: “This is yet another disappointing conclusion to the ongoing debate to put animal welfare into the Government’s trade agenda.
“Our message is clear: we want the Government to stop dragging its heels and enshrine these vital changes to safeguard our hard-fought farm animal welfare laws.”
“I hoped the Government would agree with the over 40 Lords who spoke in favour of the proposal to give a cast-iron guarantee to safeguard our farm standards by putting this into the Agriculture Bill. They failed this simple test. I have yet to be convinced that their manifesto claims will be formally written into law.
“Today the Government had a real opportunity to deliver on Ministers’ promises that they will not sell out on our animal welfare standards, yet they did not.
“The new Trade Commission met for the first time today. We have repeatedly raised concerns it needs to be transparent, expert and answerable to Parliament. Though we feel the Commission could be valuable in protecting welfare standards and continue to offer our help and involvement, we remain concerned that it could simply be a Trojan horse which fails to fulfil the Government’s manifesto promises to protect welfare standards.”
According to an RSPCA poll, 83% of UK adults agree that the UK should not allow imports of food from the USA that were produced at lower standards than those in the UK.
Sherwood concluded: “Our message is clear: we want the Government to stop dragging its heels and enshrine these vital changes to safeguard our hard-fought farm animal welfare laws. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to change the lives of billions of farm animals by creating a system to support British farmers and our farm legislation.”