A group of organisations covering a range of interests linked to farming and animal welfare has written to the Prime Minister calling for legislation to underpin the proposed Trade and Agriculture Commission.
Trade Secretary Liz Truss confirmed last week in a letter to NFU president Minette Batters that the Government would, after all, be establishing the commission to scrutinise and make recommendations on future trade deals.
She said the commission would consider policies the government should adopt in free trade agreements to ensure UK farmers ‘do not face unfair competition and that their high animal welfare and production standards are not undermined’
A group of organisations covering farming, veterinary, animal welfare and academic interests, under the banner, the Farm Animal Welfare Forum, has this week written to Boris Johnson welcoming the proposed commission, but stressing that it is ‘no substitute for a legal commitment to prevent food being imported to the UK which is produced in ways that would be illegal here’.
The letter, which includes NPA chief executive Zoe Davies among its signatories, states:
“It is not always easy to reconcile the objectives of farming and animal welfare groups. We welcome the proposal to establish a Trade and Agriculture Commission but believe it must be underpinned by law. The Commission is no substitute for a legal commitment to prevent food being imported to the UK which is produced in ways that would be illegal here.
“It is striking that many organisations across the farming and animal welfare sectors support the following aim set out in the National Farmers’ Union petition:
“Before the UK begins to negotiate trade deals with countries around the world, we call on the UK Government to put into law rules that prevent food being imported to the UK which is produced in ways that would be illegal here.”
“We are aware that trade negotiations are complex and trade-offs may need to be made to achieve progress. Equally, though, negotiators lay down red lines beyond which they are not able to go. Protecting UK farm animal welfare standards should be such a red line.
“By incorporating such amendments into law, the Government will put at rest concerns across all our sectors and the general public and will safeguard the welfare of our farm animals.”
Mark Williams, Chief Executive, British Egg Industry Council
Richard Griffiths, Chief Executive, British Poultry Council
Simon Doherty, Senior Vice-President, British Veterinary Association
Dr Nick Palmer, Head of Compassion UK, Compassion in World Farming
Øistein Thorsen, Director, FAI Farms
Zoe Davies, Chief Executive, National Pig Association
Professor Jo Price, Vice-Chancellor, Royal Agricultural University
Helen Browning, Chief Executive, Soil Association
Chris Sherwood, Chief Executive, RSPCA
Sonul Badiani-Hamment, External Affairs Adviser, World Animal Protection
Gwyn Jones, Dairy Farmer
Separately, Mrs Batters has set out her priorities for the commission, including ensuring it is made accountable, reporting to parliament, that its chairman is independent from Ms Truss’s department and that its membership represents the UK-wide ‘farm to fork’ supply chain, plus welfare and environmental groups and trade experts.
Its work must be ‘comprehensive’, she added, including advising government and parliament how final deals, before they are ratified, can be consistent with the government manifesto commitment on production standards.