Today, I’m disappointed.
I’m disappointed the majority of our government, including our Prime Minister, voted NOT to make crucial amendments to the Agriculture Bill in parliament, yesterday. Amendments to protect our shelves from imports of food produced in ways which are illegal here.
I’m disappointed the excuse was, ‘it will be added to the Trade Bill instead’. If it’s going to be added eventually, why not strengthen the Ag Bill with it, now?
I’m disappointed the mainstream media coverage begins by joking about an MP voting ‘the wrong way’ and apologising for voting ‘yes’ instead of ‘no’. The issue should be, why did any of them vote ‘no’?
I’m disappointed to see people saying it’s not a problem for you if you don’t eat meat.
Food safety standards affect everyone. If cheaper imports, produced to lower standards, are allowed onto our shelves, it’ll affect you whether you realise it or not.
What are your elderly relatives eating in care homes? What are wholesalers distributing to catering companies? What do you eat in hospitals, schools and restaurants? What ends up in food banks?
WHAT IS THE TRUE COST OF THE FOOD ON YOUR PLATE?
Are there workers who are being exploited because of lower regulations surrounding working conditions in other countries? Are the grains, oilseeds, fruit, or vegetables being grown using plant protection chemicals which are banned here because they damage wildlife?
Are the livestock being raised with less room to move around in than the minimum stocking densities British farms have to have? Or grown faster using less feed, and therefore lower costs, because using growth promoting antibiotics and hormones are still legal in some countries?
Our food is produced to some of the highest standards in the world, with our animal welfare standards matched only by 5 other countries- Austria, Denmark, The Netherlands, Sweden, and Switzerland, according to World Animal Protection. It cannot compete with cheaper imports. The increased rules and regulations on food safety, workers’ rights, environmental protection, and animal welfare, which British producers and processors have to abide by, all add extra costs to the production process.
Other countries should be encouraged to match our standards in order to sell their produce on our shores, instead of being allowed to undercut them.
WHY CAMPAIGN FOR IMPORTS TO MEET EQUIVALENT STANDARDS?
This isn’t solely about British Farming, it’s a National issue. Everybody in the UK should have an equal chance to eat safe, nutritious food, produced to our high standards. Not just those on higher incomes who can afford to choose the British option when presented with a shelf of cheaper, imported versions.
Those on lower incomes, those living in poverty, and those eating meals they didn’t choose the ingredients for, like people living in care homes, eating free school meals, or in receipt of meals provided by the council or care companies, all deserve the same quality of food.
The cheapest option shouldn’t scrimp on food safety, ethics, or sustainability. It should still match British and European standards of production.
There are many reasons which necessitate people to buy imported food…
- Modern eating habits and seasonality.
- Financial constraints, allergies, and intolerances often necessitate imported alternatives.
- Disability can mean pre-chopped frozen veg (which is mostly grown overseas), or tinned products, are the only way to make cooking from scratch accessible.
People who need to buy those imports should be able to rest safely in the knowledge that they are not compromising on Animal Welfare, Food Safety, or Environmental Protection.
So, I’m feeling disappointed, but not defeated.
This is not the end of the fight to safeguard our shelves and support higher food and farming standards across the world. The Agriculture Bill still has to go through the House of Lords, and may well end up back in the House of Commons, after that.
We need to rally the country to stand with British Farmers and demand the government to protect the safety and quality of the food on their plates. It’s a city issue as much, if not more, than a rural one. People living in inner cities don’t have the luxury of accessing local farms to buy direct from the producer, and instead, have to rely more on what’s on the shelves of the supermarkets.
There are plenty of farmers across the globe which are already matching our standards, voluntarily. But the problem is, there’s no way of proving that all the imported food will match them. It’s down to personal choice, rather than enforced laws or independent inspections.
Which is why we need to put our own laws in place to prompt other countries to rise to our level and be transparent about their production methods.
So, let’s keep talking about it and showing the government this won’t be brushed away with jokes and flimsy promises.
Show them that next time a debate is scheduled, it won’t go by unnoticed by all but the agricultural community. This is a National issue, across the whole of the UK, not just the rural areas.
Do we really want to risk importing cheaper food which may actually come at a much greater cost?