What would you do about welfare standards for farmed animals?

As one of my Parliamentary candidates, I want to urge you to support a number of policies that will improve the lives of millions of farm animals in the UK.

If elected as my next MP, I hope that you will work to promote high standards of farm animal welfare. In particular, I would ask you to help ensure that the next Parliament legislates to:

BAN UK LIVE EXPORTS FOR FATTENING AND SLAUGHTER:
Every year, around 25,000 British sheep and calves are sent overseas to be slaughtered or fattened. They suffer long, arduous journeys, and may then endure conditions that would be illegal in this country. This is an inhumane and unnecessary trade: alternatives to live exports are available, such as raising calves in the UK for rose veal. Any ban would only affect trade between the UK and other countries; it would not stop trade within the UK, or between island communities and the mainland. I hope you will be a strong voice for a ban on live exports for slaughter and fattening.

BAN THE USE OF CAGES FOR ALL UK FARM ANIMALS:
Despite well-established, economically viable alternatives, over 16 million laying hens and sows are confined to ‘enriched’ cages or farrowing crates every year in the UK. The science shows that their welfare is severely compromised in these systems.

Several European countries have already banned caged systems, and the UK should do the same. This position is supported by a petition in the previous parliament that secured over 107,000 signatures. I hope you will support the campaign to ‘End the Cage Age’. [1]

PROTECT BRITISH FARMING AGAINST LOW-WELFARE IMPORTS, SUCH AS CHLORINE-WASHED CHICKEN AND BEEF FROM HORMONE-FED COWS:
In the negotiation of future free trade agreements, it is essential that British farmers are not undermined and that our animal welfare standards are protected. In order to do this, it should be a legal requirement that imported food products meet UK standards. Without such safeguards it will be very difficult to strengthen UK animal welfare standards. Please commit to protecting British farmers from being undermined by trade deals by ensuring we do not permit the import of products produced to welfare standards lower than those required by UK law.

REFORM THE SUBSIDY SYSTEMS TO SUPPORT HIGHER WELFARE FARMERS:
I would welcome a commitment to introduce subsidies that deliver genuinely higher standards of welfare, rather than area-based payments (as is currently the case under the CAP). Taxpayers’ principal role should be to provide funding for public goods that the market cannot, or can only partially, deliver, such as high environmental and animal welfare standards.

BAN THE ROUTINE PREVENTATIVE USE OF ANTIBIOTICS THAT PROPS UP CRUEL FACTORY FARMING:
The EU has taken steps to end the routine, prophylactic use of antibiotics in farming from 2022. This is great news, as antibiotics are often used irresponsibly in intensive farming to ‘prop up’ systems that would otherwise make animals ill. I urge you to commit to ensuring the UK also implements this ban, whatever the outcome of Brexit, to protect the efficacy of antibiotics for both human and animal medicine.

INTRODUCE MANDATORY, METHOD OF PRODUCTION LABELLING FOR ALL MEAT AND DAIRY PRODUCTS:
Labelling eggs to inform consumers about how they were produced was followed by a significant increase in the percentage of sales from free range farms. I believe that mandatory method of production labelling of meat, milk and dairy products, like that required for eggs, should be introduced – this should cover all products, from those produced intensively to those produced to the highest standards. Give consumers the chance to make an informed choice for higher welfare!

PROTECT ANIMAL SENTIENCE IN UK LAW AFTER BREXIT:
The UK Government said they would recognise animal sentience after Brexit. As things stand, if the UK leaves the EU, there will be a gap in the statute book. I urge you to commit to introducing legislation in the next Parliament that will recognise animals as sentient beings who are able to feel pain and experience joy. A petition on the parliament website, demanding that sentience legislation is brought forward immediately, was backed by over 40 NGOs and closed in August having secured over 100,000 signatures. I hope you will join in supporting that call.[2] 


Answer:

As someone who lives in a rural South East Cornwall I know how important farming is for the local area and for the wider community of people living in England. I am broadly supportive of all the policies you listed above, but I have a policy of not signing specific pledges before elections as this would prevent me from refining the details of these commitments to make them more effective and workable. However, I have pledged that if I am elected as an MP, I will hold regular public meetings so that anyone can raise issues of concern or hold me to account for my record in Parliament.

It is essential that we produce as much of our own food as possible for our own health, to reduce food miles and to make sure that the food we eat is produced by responsible farmers. So, the broader context of farming is that it is part of our response to climate change, being connected with local food producers and behaving sustainably. I am aware that there are increasing numbers of people making specific choices about what they eat, whilst some people are also facing financial hardship and cannot afford decent, nutritious food for their families. For me, food pricing and food production is as much part of social justice as education, health, transport, social care and democracy. Animal welfare is one of the social challenges with how food is produced, and as a person who is committed to reducing animal suffering, I welcome the chance to advocate on this issue. 

The Liberal Democrats have made seven pledges in our 2019 Election Manifesto in connection with animal welfare:

1. Ensure that due regard is paid to animal welfare in policy making.

2. Introducing stronger penalties for animal cruelty offences, increasing the maximum sentencing from six months to five years, and ensure that the National Wildlife Crime Unit is properly funded.

3. Banning the sale of real fur, ending the use of primates as pets, clamping down on illegal pet imports and establishing an independent regulatory body for horse welfare to prevent the abuse and avoidable deaths of racehorses.

4. Improving standards of animal health and welfare in agriculture, including banning caged hens, and promoting the responsible use of antimicrobials.

5. Investing to produce workable vaccines and more effective testing to develop safe, effective, humane, and evidence-based ways of controlling bovine TB.

6. Minimising the use of animals in scientific experimentation, by funding research into alternatives.

7. Working within the EU to ensure that future trade agreements require high environmental and animal welfare standards, and legislating to ban the importing of hunting trophies where the hunting does not contribute to environmental protection.

 

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