Published by THEGUARDIAN.COM
Summary generated on August 17, 2020
US hens have half the living space of UK birds and are dipped in chlorinated water after slaughter to kill bacteria growing on them as a result of the birds "Literally sitting in each other's waste", according to a new video being launched today by the RSPCA. Aiming to highlight the welfare differences between US and UK farm animals as trade talks resume between the two countries in September, the UK's largest animal welfare charity is taking the unusual step of releasing a video that "Exposes the realities of animal welfare" and warns consumers against US dairy, egg and meat imports.
Examples of US-UK welfare differences identified by the RSPCA include the absence of US federal laws protecting chicken or turkey welfare, US egg hens having only about half the living space of UK hens, and only 5% of US laying hens being free range compared to 52% in the UK. For pigs, the UK banned sow stalls in 1999 while major US pig producing states still use them.
"Sow stalls leave pigs very little space prevent them from even turning around," the RSPCA said, while US beef cattle "Can be treated with hormones which have been banned by the EU."The 2019 UK Conservative party manifesto pledged it would "Not compromise" Britain's "High environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards".
Downing Street was accused of reopening the door to imports of chlorinated chicken and hormone-treated beef, after a leaked memo instructed ministers to have "No specific policy" on animal welfare in US trade talks.
The RSPCA believes lower welfare agri-food imports will weaken the UK's animal welfare standards and hurt farmers.
Its video comes with a petition asking the government to include legal guarantees in the post-Brexit agricultural bill that will ensure "Imports produced to lower animal welfare standards than our own will not enter the UK". September's fourth round of US trade talks is preceded by this week's EU-UK talks.
The RSPCA additionally fears a no-deal Brexit would increase pressure on Britain to sign a US-favourable trade agreement.
"And it's not just about this government or this trade deal," said the RSPCA CEO, Chris Sherwood.
"We need to be future-proofing our agriculture systems here for the next 10 or 20 years. To do that, what we need to see in the agriculture bill is a cast iron commitment, clause number one, that protects our farmers and our animals from lower welfare imports."Farmer and director of the UK's Sustainable Food Trust, Patrick Holden, said though he supported the RSPCA's actions, more needs to be done.
"It's no good being slightly better than the US. We need to be much better. If we are going to transition to a sustainable food system then we need to stop producing cheap pork and cheap chicken in the UK." He acknowledged that would increase food prices, but said cheap food has hidden costs for the environment and public health.
The RSPCA video is narrated by Farm Sanctuary research director Lauri Torgerson-White.
"Dr Ashley Peterson, seniorvice president of scientific and regulatory affairs at the National Chicken Council said:"Poultry processors consider the welfare of the birds a top priority.
Not only is it the right thing to do ethically, but it does not make economic sense to mistreat the birds.