International Trade Secretary Liz Truss, has promised that the Trade and Agriculture Commission will protect UK farmers from imports of food produced to lower standards of animal welfare and food safety than are legal in the UK. However farmers and environmentalists and their unions are sceptical. The Commission is only advisory, small scale local farmers and their marketing networks have no-one to represent them, and the Commission will only last 6 months. Of the 16-member board, nine are representatives from the food industry and retail, which reflects the real priorities of this neo-liberal, free trade government.
The Commission will be chaired by Tim Smith, an ex-director of Tesco, who in a recent interview failed to rule out the possibility of chlorinated chicken and hormone-fed beef being allowed into the UK as part of a US trade deal. Liz Truss has said that animal welfare will not be compromised in any trade deal, however she has not appointed a single representative from the animal welfare sector. The British Veterinary Association raised concerns that there was only one vet featured on the board, all driving home the inconsistencies between what is said and what is done. The RSPCA condemned the Commission as ‘a Trojan Horse’, which risks undermining the nation’s world-leading farm and food standards’.
Shanker Singham, a free trade campaigner and board member of the new Trade and Agriculture Commission, alleges that British farmers would benefit from being integrated into global supply chains. His global trade mantra recommends that the US lowers its barriers to accept our beef and lamb imports (much to the fury of US farmers!), that the UK removes barriers to imports of cheap food from the Global South (often produced on land grabbed by giant global corporations with low environmental and labour standards), and that the UK deregulates the use of insecticides and fungicides, against the advice of leading conservationists and a great many MPs and Lords.
Even the Tory party is divided on whether the Agriculture Bill legislates that food imports must comply with UK standards in light of the Trump administration and the US food industry demanding that the UK removes existing regulatory barriers relating to standards of food production. As Ministers are holding trade talks in secret and parliament isn’t guaranteed a vote on the final deal, no matter what turns out to be in it, Global Justice Now is asking us all to sign and send a letter to our MP to ensure trade deals are democratic. Without democracy, trade deals have become a blank cheque to slash standards, entrench privatisation and privilege a corporate agenda; not least allowing imports of US pork injected with the growth promoter Ractopamine which has been banned in160 countries, and US apples containing levels of harmful pesticides over 400 times those allowed in the UK.
The powers behind trans-national giant meat producers, such as US pork giant Smithfield Foods (recently exposed for their complicity in huge COVID outbreaks among their workers), are the giant global financial institutions, all of which claim to have a high-level of public commitment to sustainability!
We welcome the decision by the German government to phase out farrowing crates – tight metal cages used to house sows for 5 weeks while they give birth and suckle their piglets. This will hopefully put pressure on the UK to ban farrowing crates. However, despite Germany giving pig producers 8 years to remove insemination stalls and 15 years to remove farrowing crates, the UK pig industry is rightly concerned that cheaper imports from America, that use both cruel sow stalls and farrowing crates, will undermine our farmers.
In the latest from our #RootingForRealFarms series we hear from Jason at Farmer’s Choice in the South Downs who says that COVID has caused an increased demand for his pork due to customers’ interest in the provenance of their food.
#RootingForRealFarms – Farmer’s Choice
And finally, in a compelling article we read about the reasons that when factory farming is over, we will all be better off.