The announcement that a raft of additional restrictions on animal movements will be introduced in England and Wales and confirmation that live animal exports will be banned has been described as ‘utter hypocrisy’ by the Farmers’ Union of Wales.
The UK and Welsh Government announced on Wednesday 18 August that animal movement rules - which are already amongst the strictest in the world - would be tightened up significantly, despite standards in other countries not coming close to those already required in the UK. The announcement also confirmed that the new proposals would come in alongside a ban on live animal exports.
FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “The decision to tighten the Welsh and English rules while opening the door to more foreign food produced to far lower welfare standards is utter hypocrisy.
“The UK has agreed a trade deal in principle with Australia that will allow the importation of vast volumes of food produced from animals that are moved in conditions that would already be completely illegal in the UK.
“The UK Government is also actively negotiating trade agreements with other countries where animal movement rules do not come close to those enforced in the UK. Most consumers will not pay the extra price for high welfare and traceability, which consequently disadvantages Welsh producers adhering to such high standards.”
Mr Roberts said Welsh producers were very proud of their livestock and high standards, and could understand increasing domestic regulation if it was coupled with further protection and support for our own produce and family farms.
The 2019 Conservative manifesto promised ‘in all of our trade negotiations, we will not compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards’, however the UK Government chose not to enshrine those standards in the Agriculture Act 2020, nor in the recent Australia trade deal negotiations which agreed to massively increase tariff free access for Australian beef and lamb with negligible guarantees on welfare standards.
“We are of course against excessively long journeys for livestock and are confident that the strict standards we have in place already, coupled with the fact we have close export markets, means we are already world leaders when it comes to animal movement welfare standards,” he added.
Mr Roberts highlighted the fact that nearly half of Australia's cattle and sheep live exports would be travelling over 9000 miles by sea under far lower welfare standards than ours.
“To ban the crossing of animals from Holyhead to Dublin (56 miles) while agreeing to the importation of more food from countries such as Australia is utter hypocrisy, and is not a decision rooted in evidence.
“In reality, increasing costs and restrictions for Welsh and English farmers by bringing in these additional rules will merely reduce the amount of food we produce in the UK and increase the amount of food produced in countries with lower standards - so the net impact for animal welfare will be negative.
“By tilting the playing field even more in favour of our competitors all that will be done is the off-shoring of responsibility with regards to animal welfare,” he said.