Pressure is building on North Yorkshire MPs to support plans for a ban on imports of inferior, low-welfare meat from US factory farms – following some of the biggest farmers’ protests seen in recent times.
Tractors with trailers, lorries and farm machinery decked out with “Save British Farming” banners travelled in convoy up Northallerton High Street on Friday 25th September and in Stokesley on Friday 9th October. Scores of supporters lined the street, clapping, cheering and waving and placards calling for protection of food and animal welfare standards.
The demo’s have received widespread media coverage including North East Bylines, the Northern Echo and the Yorkshire Post – and the personal support of Yorkshire Post editor James Mitchinson who tweeted“Farmers – the people who put food on the table – need our help if the country cares about the chemicals that go into our children and/ or the way animals are treated.” The paper’s leader column said the demo: “offered further evidence of the simmering unease which has the potential to reach boiling point unless the Government listens to farmers, peers and all those who are now fearful for UK agriculture’s future because of its obdurance over Brexit.”
The protests, supported by Save British Farming, North Yorkshire for Europe and York for Europe, was organised to increase public awareness of the threat from planned deregulation of food standards to smooth the way for post-Brexit trade deals.
There were speeches by Graham Clarke, the Bedale farmer who led the convoy, Jon Johnson, of Save British Farming, and Lord Newby, leader of the Lib Dems in the House of Lords, who said: “When this Government says ‘trust us’ you have to double lock your wallet. Worse, this Bill will only be debated for 90 minutes, so keep pressuring your MP.“
Later Graham travelled by tractor to the outskirts of the town to deliver a protest letter to Richmondshire MP Rishi Sunak’s office. Graham said unregulated US imports “will mean ruin for huge numbers (of farmers) who are just getting by right now.”
A US trade deal could allow in not just chlorinated chicken but also meat from cows and pigs kept in extreme crowded conditions in US factory farms – where they are pumped full of antibiotics and artificial growth hormones banned in the UK, the EU and scores of other countries.
Imports of cheap meat from US factory farms – described as “hell meat” in a recent investigation by the Daily Mirror – would expose consumers to chemicals linked to cancer and undercut traditional livestock farmers in North Yorkshire. This would exacerbate problems created by a hard Brexit, with farmers likely to find themselves cut off from their main export market (90 per cent of UK lamb and beef exports go to the EU).
In May Rishi Sunak failed to support a rebel Tory amendment to the Agriculture Bill that sought to ban US imports of food produced to lower welfare, food safety and environmental standards than those required of British farmers. (In fact he voted for the amendment but made it clear later he had done so accidentally).
To their shame all of North Yorkshire’s other five Conservative MPs voted against the amendment: Julian Smith (Skipton & Ripon); Kevin Hollinrake (Thirsk & Malton); Andrew Jones (Harrogate & Knaresborough); Nigel Adams (Selby & Ainsty) and Bob Goodenough (Scarborough & Whitby) See the full list of MPs who voted the amendment down here.
York Outer Tory MP Julian Sturdy joined the rebels by backing the amendment, also supported by York Central MP Rachael Maskell (Lab). We must build momentum to maximise pressure on MPs ahead of crucial vote next month! (please see below)
It’s not too late to stop this madness!
On Thursday a pivotal amendment to the Agriculture Bill was passed in the House of Lords – that would “require agricultural and food imports to meet domestic standards.”So when the bill comes back to the Commons next month MPs will have another opportunity to do the right thing by backing our farmers and protecting our food and animal welfare standards – as promised in the Conservative manifesto and demanded by more than a million people who’ve signed the NFU’s food standards petition.
Please take five minutes to email or write to your MP!
Contacting your MP
You email your MP using the Save British Farming link where letter is already part written …
Alternatively, you can email your MP direct (click on appropriate MP’s name below) – remembering to include your address and postcode to show you are a constituent …
OR you can write an old-fashioned letter (click on link for office address).
Rishi Sunak (Richmondshire) Constituency Office
Julian Smith (Skipton & Ripon) Constituency Office: Churchill House, 19 Otley Street, Skipton BD23 1DY
Kevin Hollinrake (Thirsk & Malton) Constituency office
Andrew Jones (Harrogate & Knaresborough) Constituency Office
Nigel Adams (Selby & Ainsty) Constituency Office
Robert Goodwill (Scarborough & Whitby) Constituency Office
Julian Sturdy (York Outer) Constituency office