The US is leading a chlorinated chicken ‘coop d’etat’ of our farming industry and the UK must resist with all its might, says Green Party animal spokesman Keith Taylor.
The Prime Minister’s inability to get the hard-right of her party to accept a Northern Ireland customs backstop, that the Government signed off on almost a year ago, has defined the latest and most crucial round of Brexit negotiations.
The non-regression of food and farmed animal welfare standards necessary to protect the integrity of the European Union’s single market while avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland means a TTIP-like ‘America first’ trade deal with Donald Trump would be difficult.
The US has already made clear any deal would be contingent on the UK lowering its food safety and farmed animal welfare safeguards. For hard-right Tories, that is the source of their ire.
Earlier this month was World Animal Day, and it is with both that and the above in mind I want to look at the cruelty of the US agriculture industry.
For decades, the food on our plates and the welfare of farmed animals have been protected – albeit sometimes inadequately – by EU rules. Farmed animal welfare and food safety standards are far lower in the US.
This month, a shocking, but sadly not surprising, investigation revealed that the death rates of female pigs in the US are sharply rising as giant agribusinesses continue to breed them to their limit.
In the US it is also perfectly legal to ‘wash’ butchered chicken in strongly chlorinated water and to spray pig carcases with acid – which do not need to be labelled.
These practices are banned in the EU and are thought to increase microbial contamination, as dirty abattoirs with sloppy standards rely on the processes instead of ensuring their basic hygiene protocols are up to scratch.
Over-medicated livestock is both bad for animals and public health. In the US, intensively reared beef cattle and dairy cows are regularly implanted with synthetic growth hormones while pigs are often treated with ‘bodybuilding’ drugs.
At the same time, against the backdrop of a global crisis of antibiotic-resistance, 75 per cent of medically important antibiotics in the US are given to farm animals.
Not only that, overmedicating livestock is a means by which the hugely harmful factory farming industry shortcuts the implementation of even the most basic animal welfare and biosecurity measures.
Add to this the lack of US restrictions on the use of animal by-products for livestock feed, linked with outbreaks of swine fever, foot and mouth and mad cow disease in humans, and the widespread use of unlabelled genetically modified foods and additives, linked to asthma and kidney, nervous system and gastrointestinal disorders.
And, finally, pesticides. There are at least 82 pesticides currently permitted in the US but banned in the EU on public safety and environmental grounds.
Among these are permethrin, a likely carcinogen and suspected endocrine disruptor, and atrazine, a herbicide thought to affect the immune system and which is linked to birth defects.
And that is just the highlights.
Ultimately, it is worth noting that the prospect of a US trade deal might be less frightening for UK farmers and animal welfare advocates if Liam Fox, the International Trade Secretary, hadn not repeatedly signalled his enthusiasm for acquiescing to Trump’s demands.
We must continue resisting a US-led chlorinated chicken coop d’etat of our food and farming industry.
Keith can be found tweeting at @GreenKeithMEP