Credit: Original article can be found here
Former Defra Secretary George Eustice has warned that a post-Brexit trade deals with Canada could pave the way for low-welfare pork imports.
The Cornish MP has also raised the prospect of a deal with Mexico facilitating imports of beef produce with a much higher carbon footprint than British beef.
The Guardian has highlighted that ongoing negotiations over future deals could result in splits within the Conservative Party on the issue of food import standards. This includes fears of a Conservative party revolt, with Mr Eustice raising concerns over low welfare standards for pigs in Canada, and an influential group of Tory MPs and peers gearing up to oppose the deals.
Mr Eustice, who criticised the Australia trade deal after he left is Defra role last year, said it appeared that Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch had taken a tougher line than her predecessors on beef imports. “I am hearing that the volumes on beef are low, and that in return they have also got some dairy access which makes it a more reciprocal and balanced agreement,” he said.
But he added: “Pork could be more contentious, mainly because of lower welfare standards in Canada, but we will see.”
The Guardian article quotes animal campaigners in Canada, who say pigs there face castration, ear notching, tail docking and teeth trimming, with sows still kept in stalls, which were banned in the UK in 1999.
Conservative MPs in the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation (CAWF) are reportedly likely to raise concerns over the prospect of pork imports in parliament.
Lorraine Platt, a campaigner who is co-founder of CAWF, said: “We are concerned by the prospect of a trade deal involving the importation of meat from Canada and Mexico. Many low-welfare practices such as the use of barren battery cages, sow stalls and hormone-fed beef are still used in Canada.
“Meanwhile Mexico’s animal welfare laws are considerably lower than our own – with little to no specific safeguards for the rearing of pigs, cattle or chickens. We urge the government to send a strong message abroad and stand firm in commitments not to compromise our animal welfare standards in future trade deals.”
A government spokesperson stressed that negotiations on the UK’s accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, including Canada and Mexico, are ongoing.
“The government has always been clear that we will not compromise the UK’s high food safety and animal welfare standards in trade negotiations. Our accession to CPTPP will be on terms that are right for UK companies, consumers and farmers,” the spokesperson said.
There is no indication that anything has been agreed yet on pork.
NFU president Minette Batters said the union wanted the government to take a ‘very, very firm line on further imports of beef’ from Mexico, having given away so much on beef to Australia and New Zealand, the Guardian reports.
“Environmental impacts are why beef was a sensitive sector, both in New Zealand and in Australia, and now in Mexico. And we want them now to really show that they are keeping their promises of not undermining farmers and trade deals. We don’t want to see further imports of beef,” she said.
Lindsay Duncan, farming campaigns manager for World Animal Protection sad: “While the UK still has a lot of work to do to raise welfare standards for pigs, trade deals need to acknowledge the positive steps that have been taken such as banning sow stalls and the use of growth promoters.
“Trade deals should not undermine UK farmers. This will create a race to the bottom as they try to compete with cheaper lower welfare imports. Tariffs should be in place to reflect welfare standards and support those farmers in the UK who raise pigs in high welfare conditions.”