The government overturned an amendment to the Agriculture Bill which would have ensured that food imports met certain standards this week.
Farmers and animal rights campaigners have accused the government of breaking promises, with concerns raised for animal welfare standards in future trade deals.
Ministers argued that the amendment was unnecessary and, as existing protection is already in place, adding more would damage negotiations by restricting the UK’s freedom.
Despite a major lobbying campaign by advocates, including celebrity chefs, and 14 Conservative backbenchers voting against their government, MPs voted with a majority of 53 to overturn the amendment.
One of the main concerns with the Bill is that it will allow lower standards of meat products entering the country, with warnings of chlorinated chicken or hormone-treated beef entering the UK market.
Director of Agriculture at MAF, Rachel Borlace, voiced her frustrations at the decision:
“This is disappointing for both farmers and UK consumers.
“The importance of British standards has always been admired around the world – the quality, value and welfare practices that go into food production is unquestioned.
“Throughout the COVID pandemic, despite the challenges that farmers have seen, food has still been produced and provided to the same quality.
“The British public understand the work and effort involved in British farming and has often chosen to pay more to support their local farms.
“Minette Batters tirelessly lobbied the government to ensure they adhered to the promise of preventing lesser quality food from being imported.
“We continue to support agriculture with new funding requests every day as part of new and innovative ideas which assist farmers with their goal of bringing fresh food to our tables, and are passionate about helping the farms getting to the net zero goal by 2040 by looking at technology, innovation and renewables.
But this feels like a huge step backwards and is very disappointing.”