Campaigners have accused the Government of quietly changing restrictions on antibiotic use in farming ahead of a US trade deal.
And animal welfare was back in the spotlight, as a US animal welfare charity warned the UK not to accept food produced to lower standards, with the RSPCA releasing footage of US poultry ‘sitting in each others’ waste’.
Friends of the Earth warned rules in force from January will no longer refer to hundreds of medicines currently restricted or banned in the UK for use on animals, including antibiotic monensin used ’routinely’ in US cattle.
In the Daily Mail, Kierra Box, Friends of the Earth campaigner, said the change showed the promise of upholding standards ‘just does not wash’.
“Deleting these standards gives them a blank slate to set new, weaker standards and water down our environmental protections," she said.
The change was made in a Veterinary Medicines and Animals and Animal Products statutory instrument agreed last year and revoked reference to the restricted medicines list.
Defra reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to maintaining food standards.
A spokesperson said: "We are absolutely committed to maintaining the stringent controls on the medicines that can be used for all animals, including food-producing ones, following the end of the transition period.”
Defra added the ban on monensin as a growth promoter and other controlled substances would remain in place.
On animal welfare, there was a warning from rescue charity Farm Sanctuary research director Lauri Torgerson stating the UK’s world leading work on animal welfare could be undermined by importing US produce.
Ms Torgerson highlighted three quarters of US laying hens lived in battery cage systems and broilers in ‘dark, barren sheds, at very high stocking densities, on the litter of several flocks’, with sow stalls used in many US pig herds.
It came as the RSPCA launched a petition calling on Government to keep its promises and enshrine a ban on lower standard imports in UK law.