National Farmers' Union (NFU) president Minette Batters has said the government must apply the same standards to imports as it has done for exports under new Animal Welfare laws revealed today (May 12).

She said:

"British farmers are proud to have some of the highest standards of animal welfare in the world and it is clear the government wants to be a global leader in this area.

"However, we want to see the same energy and leadership that is being proposed for protecting endangered species and wildlife crime to be applied to our asks in equivalence in trade.

I have serious concerns about the government’s intention to raise the bar at home, without any certainty that the same standards will be applied to imports.

"There are still many practices allowed in countries we are currently negotiating with that are banned here, on welfare grounds."

Government consultations

Batters continued:

"For example, it is not uncommon to see journey times for live animals in Australia exceed 24 hours without access to feed or water.

"In comparison, the government has recently consulted on reducing domestic journey times in the UK to eight hours.

It’s also important to recognise that two sectors the government has singled out, poultry and pigs, have some of the highest engagement levels in farm assurances schemes, meaning they are managed and audited against robust animal welfare standards.

"Just over a quarter of eggs sold in retail last year were from enriched cages.

"If this production system were to be banned in this country then there is every prospect that the demand would simply be fulfilled by importing eggs from countries with lower standards," she added.

"If the government is to raise the welfare bar here, it must do so for food imports.

"It would simply be hypocritical to do otherwise.

We cannot have a situation where British farmers adhere to some of the highest standards in the world, only to be undercut by imports that barely meet the lowest rung on the ladder.

"We are pleased to see the commitment that ministers should be held accountable to Parliament when making policy decisions around animal sentience.

"This will provide a high level of scrutiny and we look forward to engaging with Defra on this important issue," she concluded.