Former Farming Minister George Eustice has said the US should be required to pass a federal law recognising animal sentience before any trade deal with the UK can be signed.
The Camborne and Redruth MP also described American attitudes to farm animal welfare as ‘very backward’, in an intervention which is unlikely to be well-received in Washington.
Mr Eustice made the suggestion, which Defra Secretary Michael Gove said was a ‘very good point’, during Defra Questions in the House of Commons last week (March 28).
But Vicki Hird, food and farming campaign co-ordinator at Sustain, suggested the proposal was unlikely to be accepted by the USA.
She said: “UK consumer fears about chlorine chicken and hormone-treated beef are not just about food safety but animal welfare. Unlike the EU, the US specifically excludes farm animals from its animal welfare legislation.
“Two years ago the Government said it would pass an Animal Sentience Bill before we exited the EU to ensure animal welfare standards were maintained as we left.
“This is yet to happen and through new trade deals we could end up propping up farming systems which treat animals very poorly.
“While unlikely to be accepted, George Eustice’s idea chimes with UK consumers’ expectations about what ends up on their plate.”
NFU Brexit director Nick von Westenholz also told Farmers Guardian the UK should take a ‘robust’ approach to post-Brexit trade negotiations which would see other countries commit to adopt the same high animal welfare and environmental standards met by domestic producers.
“Otherwise, we risk importing food which would have been produced in a manner that would be illegal for our own farmers,” he added.