Anne Main MP puts animal welfare and farmers at the 'forefront' in Parliament debate

24th January 2017

Anne Main welcomes the opportunity of Brexit for us to put our farmers at the forefront and stop cross-subsidising inefficient farmers in many EU countries that are operating at standards we would not allow in our country.

I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Mrs Villiers) for securing the debate.

Brexit is a great opportunity for the UK to enforce more transparency for farm-to-fork traceability to enable British consumers to make more informed choices about what they are buying and what life an animal has had in the production of food. We should therefore focus on a thriving trade for our farmers, because they operate to some of the highest standards. As I pointed out in my intervention, standards for farrowing crates for sows have been flouted in other countries, whereas our farmers obey the rules.

We will have the opportunity to ban the export of certain live animals, such as the live transportation of horses, which I feel very strongly about. Brexit will allow us to protect endangered species from being transited through the UK, and to ban imports of wildlife trophies, body parts and extracts of bodies. It will allow us to have stronger regulation of animal testing and research, banning that which is causing severe suffering.

UK farmers must not be undermined by lower welfare production units operating abroad. It is vital that we get labelling right. I tried to have a debate on labelling. The EU labelling directive is so tortuous that many years are spent achieving little. The traffic lights system on some of our products was voluntary. Italy kicked up a huge stink because it did not want olive oil labelled as a high-fat product, because it felt that that was discriminatory. I think most of us are fully aware of what we are buying when we buy a bottle of oil or a pat of butter.

Leaving the EU will allow us to be able to take things into our own hands. It will allow us to limit the diseases that sometimes come across from other countries. The Schmallenberg virus, for example, is now widespread across much of the EU. It was not made a notifiable disease, despite Governments seeking to limit its spread. As a result, the US banned bovine semen exports from the EU, including from our significant UK export market, despite our stocks being less badly hit. The EU standing veterinary committee operates through a bureaucracy. With foot and mouth disease, its rules caused delayed response times and exacerbated the risk of spread.

We have many, many opportunities within the wildlife sector, the food production sector, the farming sector, the export sector and the labelling sector to take back control in this country and put our farmers at the forefront. We can stop hiding behind rules that are bent by the EU and stop cross-subsidising inefficient farmers in many EU countries that are operating at standards we would not allow in our country.

I welcome this timely debate. Time is short, but the very fact that so many Government Members are taking the matter seriously means that we will certainly have a great deal for farmers in this country post-Brexit.

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