A CHARITY that campaigns for higher standards of animal welfare is calling on Wokingham residents to lobby MPs in a bid to prevent chlorinated chicken from coming to the UK.
The House of Commons is to vote on an Agriculture Bill next week, which they say could lead to a post-Brexit country accepting a flood of imported food raised to a lower standard.
This would include eggs from hens kept in barren battery cages, pork from pigs reared in sow stalls and hormone beef – all products made to welfare standards that are illegal here.
Last week, the House of Lords voted through an amendment to the Agriculture Bill to ban imports of products produced to a lower welfare standard than the UK.
But MPs could vote differently when they debate the bill on Wednesday, October 7.
This would be at odds with the Conservatives manifesto pledge to stop lower standard imports when the UK leaves the EU.
The RSPCA argues that the Government has failed to enshrine this promise in law.
And it says that more than three-quarters (77%) of people in the South East want lower standard imports to be banned post-Brexit.
RSPCA Chief Executive Chris Sherwood said: “The Government must now honour its manifesto promise and back this amendment.
“If it doesn’t, MPs must vote with their conscience and reflect the strong feelings of the public.
“It’s a choice between protecting the UK’s globally-recognised high farm animal welfare standards or allowing in products like chlorinated chicken and hormone beef from abroad.”
He added: “We are pleased that the Lords have voted for a law to stop imports of food produced to lower farm animal welfare standards but now that the Agriculture Bill returns to the Commons, we urge MPs to seriously consider what’s at stake here.
“Unless MPs also agree to enshrine in law what was promised in the Conservative manifesto, a no-deal would mean the UK faces a flood of imported food that is illegal in the UK.”
He warned that with a no deal Brexit still a possibility, the Government’s desire to sign trade deals, failure to act now “could result in a catastrophic weakening of the hard-won protections for millions of animals in this country and could risk setting back animal welfare for many years ahead”.
And he warned: “It would also threaten UK farmers’ livelihoods as they would be at risk of being undercut by imports produced to much lower welfare methods than are allowed in the UK.
“Research shows that 83% of people do not want to see imports of food from abroad that are produced to lower standards and tens of thousands of people have signed our petition pressing the government to introduce a law to that effect.
“We need MPs to realise how strongly the public feels about this issue and are urging people to contact their local MP to pressure them to support this law to stop lower welfare imports coming into the UK.”
In June, Wokingham MP Sir John Redwood said: “I find the argument over chlorine washes misleading. The EU allows chlorine washes for items like bagged salad, which I never get complaints about, yet I get complaints about alleged chlorine washes for US chicken.
“Our water system relies on chlorine washes for hygiene in the pipe network, and medics advise that small traces of chlorine are not harmful.”
The RSPCA has set up a page on its website devoted to the campaign, which includes details on how to contact MPs and give more details on how to protect farm animal welfare. Visit: www.rspca.org.uk