RSPCA: Government is resisting putting animal welfare at heart of trade policy

The RSPCA today claimed that this week’s Agriculture Bill Committee debate in the House Lords once again failed to convince it that the UK’s farm animal welfare standards will be protected as the Government starts to conclude trade agreements.

The debate focused on proposals to put animal welfare at the heart of our 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.

“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 its manifesto claims will be formally written into law.”

Mr Sherwood added: “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. We’ve 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.”

Mr Sherwood added that proposals in the Bill show promising support for farmers.

He added: “We support the Bill’s proposals to develop a scheme to provide financial rewards for farmers in England who improve their animal welfare practices – an approach we actively encouraged – as well as the official recognition of animal welfare as a ‘public good’.”

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