Canada probes UK over hormone beef ban

Britain has kept in place an EU ban on growth hormones for cows — Canada sees that rule as lacking scientific basis.


LONDON — Canada upped pressure on the U.K. over its ban on hormone-treated beef as London tries to join a crucial trade bloc.

POLITICO has seen a government memo from a meeting last week noting that Canadian officials “asked some probing questions” about the issue and said it was “important.”

The meeting was about U.K. hopes of joining the 11-nation Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) — a pact Britain has pinned much of its post-Brexit trade ambition on.

The revelation sparked concerns from Britain’s opposition Labour Party and among campaigners fighting against imports of hormone beef, which sees cows given growth hormones to boost meat production. The government insisted standards won’t be lowered.

Britain maintained the EU’s ban on hormone beef imports after Brexit, but nations like Canada, which do use growth hormones in farming, argue the rule has no scientific basis.

Most CPTPP nations take a “hazard” approach to agricultural goods, meaning practices are allowed unless proven unsafe, whereas the EU takes an approach based more on precaution.

Japan, which chaired the CPTPP commission in 2021, has said London must accept the existing rules of the trade bloc rather than attempt to set its own standards. It means a showdown could loom over whether the hormone beef ban is compliant with CPTPP rules.

The note about the meeting at the end of last week said: “On hormone treated beef Canada asked some probing questions and stated this will be an important issue for Canada in judging the U.K.’s compliance with CPTPP. However, Canada stopped short of describing the U.K. as non-compliant in this area.” Canada has the power to veto British accession.

Shadow International Trade Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said the fact the issue was discussed at all showed the government was “considering dropping animal welfare and food standards and allowing hormone-treated beef into U.K. markets.”

He added: “The secretary of state recently stated that our standards are ‘non-negotiable.’ The government should be standing up for U.K. interests in the accession process to CPTPP.”

A government spokesperson said: “We have always been clear maintaining our high standards is a red line in all our trade negotiations. The U.K. will not be forced to lower our food, animal welfare or environmental standards when acceding to CPTPP, and there is absolutely nothing in the agreement which will require us to do so.”

Martin Lines, chair of the Nature Friendly Farming Network campaign group, said “the pressure to accept low-environmental and low-animal welfare standards,” will increase as Britain dials up its efforts to strike new trade deals around the world.

But he insisted it was “more important than ever before that the U.K. delivers on its climate and environment commitments and stands firm against this international pressure.” Farmers want the U.K. to enshrine its domestic food and farming standards in law.

The Canadian government did not respond by the time of publication. The U.K. hopes to accede to the CPTPP deal before the end of 2022.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here