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Brexit Risks ‘Race to the Bottom’ on Animal Welfare, Lords Say

  • Report says U.K. should add farm welfare rules to trade deals
  • Trade deals must work for farmers, consumers, spokesman says

British farmers risk losing out to cheaper, imported food after leaving the European Union if ministers don’t keep strict standards for farm animal welfare, lawmakers said.

As the government pushes for free trade deals after Brexit, welfare standards could decline and create an opportunity for lower-cost producers, which would disadvantage British farmers, the House of Lords EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee said in a report on Tuesday. U.K. farms have some of the world’s highest animal welfare standards, but also higher production costs.

“The government may find it hard to reconcile its free trade ambitions with its commendable desire for preserving high farm-animal welfare standards,” Robin Teverson, chairman of the sub-committee, said in an emailed statement.

If the government allows imports from countries with weaker rules, British farmers could become uncompetitive and it would lead to a “race to the bottom” for welfare standards, the report said.

Teverson urged the government to make sure that farm animal care and treatment is part of any free trade deal.

The debate over food imports after Brexit is starting to heat up as lawmakers focus on a new trading relationship with the European Union. The Daily Telegraph reported on Monday that Prime Minister Theresa May’s cabinet has split over allowing imports of chlorine-washed chicken from the U.S.

May’s spokesman, James Slack, said the report was premature and that any trade deal must work for farmers, consumers and businesses.

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