A body representing 18,000 UK vets has cautioned that standards of animal welfare should not be undermined at any cost by a potential UK/USA trade deal.

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) said that any change to standards in the UK could in fact hamper trade deals with other countries and added the UK should prioritise the health and welfare of farmed animals in any trade negotiations.

With the USA objectives now tabled, BVA reiterates its calls for the Government not to undermine current farming and agricultural systems working to high standards with the import of animal products that may not meet these.

Similar concerns have also been expressed by the National Farmers' Union and RSPCA.

BVA president, Simon Doherty said: “The UK must make the health and welfare of farmed animals a priority in any trade negotiations to ensure that any products coming into the UK meet the same high standards expected of UK farmers.

BVA is concerned that if lower standard products are allowed to enter the UK, it would become difficult for consumers to distinguish between the two and thus make informed choices about the products they buy.

“Within the UK these goods could become indistinguishable from UK produce, jeopardising the ability of UK farmers to trade using the good reputation of the UK as a high animal health and welfare producer."

Extra checks

Doherty warned that striking a deal could have an impact on the UK's ability to trade with other countries.

"Allowing animal products onto the UK market which do not comply with EU regulations, will mean the need for veterinary checks on UK goods entering the EU Single Market would rise," he said.

This would place additional delays on UK producers selling into the EU.

“Although the USA objectives state that scientifically-based checks are taken in the interest of public health, this does not address the issue of animal health and welfare at other stages of the production line.

"The UK and EU take a farm-to-fork approach, meaning that regulations are in place to ensure that high standards are set at every step.

"BVA strongly recommends that the Government consults the veterinary profession on any changes in policy relating to the import or export of farmed animal products.”