As Jean Pierre Garnier from the English meat promotion body, EBLEX, celebrates UK lamb and mutton exports to China rising by 93% last year and ‘booming’ sales to Europe we ask whether cheap meat should be imported from countries with lower standards of traceability and welfare.
We remember the state of affairs revealed years ago by Brighton MP Caroline Lucas (Viewpoint in the Financial Times, April 2001):
The sheer absurdity of this food swap is seen by the fact that Britain imported 240,000 tonnes of pork and 125,000 tonnes of lamb while at the same time exporting 195,000 tonnes of pork and 102,000 tonnes of lamb. Even more bizarrely we imported 61,400 tonnes of poultry meat from the Netherlands in the same year that we exported 33,100 tonnes of poultry meat to the Netherlands.
If anything, fears of infection & malpractice have increased since she quoted:
“Ben Gill President of the National Farmers publicly asked “Is it a coincidence that we had classical swine fever in East Anglia last year of an Asian origin, and Foot and Mouth now, also of an Asian origin? It raises questions about freer world trade”
If imports are welcomed, exports continue
“Indeed the great unasked question is why is it that a disease that doesn’t harm humans and from which most animals recover in a matter of weeks, has virtually shut down the countryside, led to massive slaughter of healthy animals, and crippled our tourist industry?
“The answer of course is to ensure that we get back on the trail of the holy grail of ever greater exports as rapidly as possible.
Compare £630 million a year from meat & dairy exports with £9 billion FMD losses
“Yet the economics of this just don’t make sense. According to the National Farmers Union, the UK earns £630 million per year from meat and dairy exports. Compare this with the estimate of the cost of the Foot and Mouth epidemic of £9 billion, mostly losses in tourism, but also to farming.
“In effect that means that it will take more than 14 years of exports to match the cost of the mayhem and damage done in a few weeks of the present cull to eradicate approach to Foot and Mouth”.