Warnings of ‘cows stood in slurry’ as MP makes welfare promise
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
Fears over poor animal welfare standards which see cows “stood in slurry on vast concrete lots” have been highlighted during a council debate on farming and trade policy post-Brexit.
North Norfolk councillors debated a motion to call on the area’s local MPs to lobby government for the protection of animal welfare standards during negotiations for a farming and trade deal ahead of the UK’s final exit from the EU.
Liberal Democrat councillor Richard Kershaw brought forward the motion to back local farmers, which stated: “Covid-19 has highlighted the importance of food security and traceability.
“It is essential food standards and animal welfare conditions are not diminished for the UK food industry and to protect local farmers from food and animals entering the country that do not meet food and welfare standards.”
The motion gave the council’s support to the National Farmers Union’s (NFU) call to maintain standards and called for the government to prevent food which would be illegal if produced here being imported into the country.
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Mr Kershaw, cabinet member for economic development, said: “The most important farming legislation in generations passed its third reading in Parliament despite warnings that in a bid to make the UK market pliable for a post-Brexit US trade deal protections for minimum food safety standards have evaporated as has safety for British farmers.”
And Paul Heinrich, Lib Dem councillor, warned that differing animal welfare standards in other countries saw “cattle kept stood in slurry on vast concrete feedlots and fed concentrates”.
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He added: “To keep them even remotely healthy requires the overuse of antibiotics. Cattle are sentient creatures, they are not dollar signs.”
But Christopher Cushing, the Conservative group leader, said the government backed the NFU’s “wish to maintain standards”.
He said: “The government has no intention of reducing those. We will not compromise standards and environmental protections.”
But independent councillor Nigel Housden said he found it “disappointing that three principal Norfolk MPs, James Wild, Duncan Baker and Jerome Mayhew, voted for the legislation”.
In response, Duncan Baker, Cons councillor and North Norfolk MP, pledged: “We will not compromise our high food safety standards in trade negotiations.”
He added: “I would have thought that after your bruising defeat in the general election you would realise that people did vote to leave the EU but I do understand the sentiment of this.”
He said guarantees of food safety would be automatically transferred into UK law from EU legislation at the end of the transition period.
“We don’t want to throw that away in a free trade agreement - you’ve got it on the record here,” he said.
However, Mr Kershaw said he was concerned about what would happen if the UK didn’t agree a deal with the EU and warned: “Then we will end up under World Trade Organisation rules and those rules do not support the standards that we have.”
But Mr Baker said: “Nobody is looking to leave on a no deal situation. There is no way I want to see this in this constituency.
“We want to protect our farmers.”
The motion passed with 31 votes in favour and eight abstentions - including Mr Baker.