Aug 13 2008

Yet another UK government cop-out

Category: GeneralDave @ 21:13

On the Number 10 Downing Street website, you can start a petition to the government. You can then advertise its existence any (legal) way you want and invite people to come & sign it. Eventually, after the closing date, you get an answer from the Prime Minister (yeah, OK). I can’t remember how I found out about this one:

“We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to secure derogations from EU treaties to allow the prohibition of foods that fail UK animal welfare standards.”

but I signed it. It was really about the mistreatment of birds to produce foie gras. They are force fed a special diet in order to artificially increase the size of their liver. I’ve read the response from producers who claim it really isn’t that bad and my response to them is “OK, let me try it on you & see if that’s OK then.” And I can guess pretty much exactly what their answer would be. It’s cruel and there really is, in my opinion, no justification for it whatsoever.

The petition only got 308 signatures which is rather sad in itself but in reality is not a bad result when you consider how many petitions there are on the site.

So, on to the PM’s reply:

We appreciate concerns over this subject and realise that many people would like us to ban the importation and sale of foie gras into the UK.

The free movement of goods is a well established, fundamental principle in Community law and is enshrined in Part III, Title I of the Treaty Establishing the European Community (TEC). Any exception from these principles by amending the Treaty to exclude or modify these provisions in their application to the UK would need to be ratified by all Member States.

If such an amendment to the TEC was agreed it is unlikely that the amendment would be viable since the World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules are unlikely to allow us to ban imports to the EU on the grounds of welfare standards applied in third countries. Any ban therefore, could lead to a successful WTO challenge to the EU in relation to such an amendment.

It remains that the most effective action that can be taken is for individuals not to buy foie gras, if they dislike the way it is produced.

Or in other words “We have treaties with other countries that mean we can’t refuse to import their products even if they are made using totally unacceptable methods.” Oddly, they managed to get exceptions for child labour (good) but not this. Presumably they don’t consider animal welfare important enough (now there’s a surprise) to stand up to the CE and WTO and make them change their rules. No, it wouldn’t be easy. So what?

Make like the French: just say “Non” and haughtily turn away.

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