NFU refuses to back Friends of the Earth Livestock Bill

The proposed Sustainable Livestock Bill from Friends of the Earth is ‘admirable’ in intent but ‘fails’ to take on board the work already being undertaken by the farming industry, according to the National Farmers’ Union (NFU).

The union has said therefore it now cannot support the Private Members’ Bill sponsored by Robert Flello MP due to these reservations. The Bill will get its Second Reading on 12 November.

NFU president Peter Kendall said: “First and foremost, this Bill represents policy aspiration, not law.
“I believe the UK government, present or future, should be free to develop its policy on the sustainability of the food and farming sector, working in partnership with industry and other interested organisations, as it sees fit. While the aspirations of this Bill are admirable, they are unsuited to legislation.

“I remain convinced there are better ways of improving farming’s environmental impact, primarily by seeing through the voluntary and industry-led initiatives that are already underway rather than by adding further burdensome regulation.

“Under a variety of schemes, GHG emissions from the whole of the agricultural sector, including livestock, were reduced by more than 20% between 1990 and 2008.

“We remain strongly opposed to measures that attempt to regulate the industry’s approach to this important issue. The Bill’s focus on a duty to ensure the sustainability of the livestock sector is impossible to define in a legally enforceable way, and there is no enforcement mechanism in any case.

“Furthermore, some provisions are of questionable legal status, for example a requirement to regulate the consumption of imports which potentially contravene world and EU trade rules. Such an unenforceable element would mean British farmers are put at a competitive disadvantage and could see consumers buying imported produce that will not have met any of the criteria sought in this Bill.”

“We’ve also accused some organisation of making disingenuous claims that the Bill will achieve things that are completely absent from its provisions.

“These include a ban on large dairies, an enforced reduction in meat and dairy in people’s diets, and the erection of trade barriers on imported animal feed.

“Whatever one’s personal opinions, it is insincere to make claims about the Bill in order to garner support for its passage – both amongst MPs and the general public – which are not supported by the published text. There must be a question as to whether these organisations are seeking to hijack the Bill for their own ends.”

>>Editor’s Comment

>>Less meat will save lives, says Friends of the Earth