The House of Lords EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee has published its report Brexit: farm animal welfare. The committee warns that a potential increase in imports from countries operating lower farm animal welfare standards could put UK producers at a competitive disadvantage after Brexit.
The committee heard evidence that the greatest threat to farm animal welfare standards post-Brexit would come from UK farmers competing against cheap, imported food from countries that produce to lower standards than the UK.
The government’s wish for the UK to become a global leader in free trade is not necessarily compatible with its desire to maintain high animal welfare standards.
The demand for high-welfare products is ultimately driven by whether consumers prioritise purchasing those products, at added cost, rather than buying cheaper, lower-welfare products.
The committee found that consumers are not always aware of the difference between production systems or willing to pay a higher price for premium welfare products. This could exacerbate the challenge to UK farmers’ competitiveness arising from a potential increase in cheaper imports produced to lower welfare standards.