October 28, 2020

Government set to betray public and sell out animal welfare standards for cheap food imports, RSPCA fears

The government looks set to dismiss the concerns of 83% of the British public, sacrificing farm animal welfare standards for quick trade deals with countries such as the USA and Australia.

Today (Monday 12th October), MPs will vote on key amendments to the Agriculture Bill, changes which were recently supported by the Lords, to ensure that the UK’s farm animal welfare standards are protected. But reports indicate that the Government is planning to betray the public and pressure MPs to vote against a proposed law in the Bill which would stop food produced to lower welfare standards being allowed into the UK. 

RSPCA polling conducted by Savanta ComRes showed that 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*.

RSPCA Chief Executive, Chris Sherwood, said: “MPs must vote with their conscience when the Agriculture Bill returns to the Commons.  

“The government made a manifesto promise to protect animal welfare in the UK as we leave the EU but they have so far refused to enshrine this promise into law. Without clear legislation stopping food produced to lower welfare standards from our shores, we risk setting back animal welfare by decades, causing the suffering of more animals to produce the food on our plates and failing to protect British farmers. 

“If the government votes against this amendment, as recent reports suggest they will, they’re betraying the UK public’s strongly voiced wishes to maintain our hard-won high animal welfare standards and they’ll be threatening UK farmers’ livelihoods. The RSPCA cannot stand by if our animal welfare standards are trashed by the Government for the sake of a quick deal with the USA or Australia.”

With the looming prospect of a no deal Brexit, the RSPCA has warned that without new laws we could open the floodgates to cheap products produced to lower welfare standards coming into the UK from places like the USA, Canada and Australia.

This could undercut UK farms, putting them out of business and filling supermarket shelves with lower welfare imports of egg products. As well as the much-discussed issue of chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-fed beef, the UK faces seeing products from pigs produced in sow stalls (banned here in 1999) and egg products from hens kept in barren battery cages.

To help the RSPCA continue rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming animals in desperate need of care please visit our website or call our donation line on 0300 123 8181.

 *Savanta ComRes interviewed 2,079 UK adults online between the 10th and 13th July 2020. Data were weighted to be demographically representative of the UK by age gender, region and social grade.  Savanta ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Full Tables can be found on the Savanta ComRes website.