The RSPCA has warned that as the UK Government signs up to a new Trans-Pacific trade deal this weekend, it has missed a crucial opportunity to prevent imports of low welfare battery hen eggs – illegal to produce in the UK – appearing on supermarket shelves.
UK membership of CPTPP now risks opening the doors to imports of low welfare egg products and pork produced from sow stalls from those countries, the charity said, due to higher legal standards in the UK.
UK Government negotiators had the opportunity to exclude the import of pork and eggs from systems that are illegal to use in the UK from the Trans-Pacific deal, by agreeing to only allow them in if they were produced to at least our own welfare standards – but they did not do so.
RSPCA head of public affairs David Bowles said: “Animal welfare is about to suffer another knock-out blow with the UK’s new Trans-Pacific deal. The UK Government has dropped the ball by deciding not to draw a red line around our high animal welfare standards and, in particular, pork and eggs.
“We would urge Ministers to reconsider, because without an exclusion, pork and eggs produced to very low welfare standards from countries like Mexico and Canada could enter the UK and be found on our supermarket shelves.
“This would not only put our own producers at a disadvantage, but also severely disadvantage UK consumers. The UK public has made it clear they do not want lower welfare imports like eggs from hens reared in barren battery cages – but battery hen eggs could be back under this deal.
“The deal could also directly impact RSPCA standards on laying hens and pigs, which account for over one in two eggs and one in four pigs produced in the UK by undercutting on price, leaving farmers prioritising higher welfare struggling to compete with cheap imports.”
As the UK has permitted lower tariffs without animal welfare conditionality in joining the CPTPP, there is also nothing to stop low welfare animal products from member countries being imported into the UK, including batter caged hen eggs.