Skip to main content

Animal Welfare Standards: Imports and Exports

Volume 744: debated on Thursday 1 February 2024

We are committed to maintaining high animal welfare and food standards. Since leaving the EU, we have put in place strong controls on imports, and we are using Brexit freedoms to strengthen animal welfare standards even further by banning the export of live animals for slaughter. [Interruption.]

Order. Can I say to the hon. Member for East Londonderry (Mr Campbell) that we are in the middle of a question, and he has just walked right in front of the Member asking it?

Yesterday, the UK Government implemented a border target operating model in which a veterinarian must provide a health certificate for meat imports from the EU. Meanwhile, the UK-Australia free trade agreement, which came into effect six months ago, is likely to lead to increased imports of low-cost products produced in Australia using pesticides that are not permitted in the UK and in the absence of veterinary checks. According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Australia has lower welfare standards in many sectors, such as eggs, pigmeat production and chicken. Does the Secretary of State accept that this asymmetry on standards of animal welfare is incoherent and poses a significant risk of contaminating the food chain with banned pesticides?

The hon. Gentleman is mixing up two issues. He mentioned Australia, and specifically eggs. If he actually looked at the agreement with Australia, he would see that eggs are excluded, as are pork and poultry. He is mixing that up with the issue of food standards for imports from Europe. Of course, if we did what his party would advocate and were still in the EU, there would be no checks at all.

This week, Ian Perks, a constituent of mine, had his entire shipment seized in France by over-zealous French officials because he missed out a single word on the export health certificate. Can the Secretary of State please reassure me that we will find arbitration methods to speed up the process of challenging these completely ridiculous situations?

I know my hon. Friend champions very strongly the farming and food sector in his constituency, and that he has raised this issue with my right hon. Friend the Minister for Food, Farming and Fisheries, who is actively engaged on it. Of course, a proportionate approach should always be taken on these issues.