Promoted by a single post to the this blog, Foie gras petiton fails… ban EU foods that fail UK standards, my petition to Number 10 received more than 300 signatures and, earlier this week, a response from the prime minister’s office. A petition must earn at least 200 signatures to receive a response and it’s great to see that target beaten so comfortably.
The petition was launched in response to a much more popular petition to ban foie gras. That petition was rejected because a ban would contravene EU rules. My petition called for the Prime Minister to secure derogations from EU treaties to allow the prohibition of foods that fail UK animal welfare standards. It would have banned not just foie gras (which usually involves pumping food directly into the stomach of a permanently restrained goose using a device that looks like a petrol pump) but any food whose production would not be legal in the UK. The prime minister’s office response is that that would be too difficult.
However, longer term I believe government will be forced to seriously consider such a move. At present unethical farmers can simply move production to a country, like France, where regulation is lax. As the EU expands, such tactics may well become easier.
There is a parallel with labour laws. Thatcher envisioned Britain as Europe’s sweatbox. With its labour marked made flexible by low pay, few workplace rights and reduced health and safety obligations, Britain would lure employers away from the relatively pleasant environs of France, Germany et al. But our European neighbours were not so daft and rightly refused to open up their markets without ensuring some basic rights for workers. It is for killing Thatcher’s dream that Tories hate the EU so.
Sadly we were not forward thinking when it came to animal welfare, but as we become more aware of the often barbaric nature of factory farming, so pressure will grow to raise the bar throughout Europe… though it may take another twenty years.