Farmers brace for more UK attacks

Federated Farmers national president Andrew Hoggard (right) hopes food attacks against Kiwi...
Federated Farmers national president Andrew Hoggard (right) hopes food attacks against Kiwi farmers will die down. He is with North Canterbury branch manager Harry Matthews. PHOTO: DAVID HILL.
Farmers are bracing themselves for more dirty campaigns after a British bid to unsettle shoppers with questionable claims over New Zealand food.

A free-trade agreement between New Zealand and the United Kingdom enraged the Red Tractor food assurance scheme last month.

In a Twitter post, the body made comparisons between the countries to frame British food in a better light.

They included claims that the growth hormone, ractopamine, and the herbicide, paraquat, are banned in the UK, but are legal in New Zealand, stock transport hours are unlimited and dehorning with anaesthetic is required only for cattle over 9 months of age.

However, the growth hormone is allowed only in pigs and not sheep and cattle, pain relief is required for all ages with dehorning, and travel over eight hours is unusual.

Federated Farmers president Andrew Hoggard said the knee-jerk reaction was unnecessary as paraquat was hardly used and many farmers took an animal-welfare approach well within the rules.

He said Beef+Lamb New Zealand (BLNZ) reacted quickly in its response to correct some of the statements.

‘‘It was good to see a number of British farmers pulled Red Tractor up to task and say ‘ hey, that’s not the way we do things and we shouldn’t put other producers down in this manner’, particularly when they saw the BLNZ post and the inaccuracies.’’

Mr Hoggard said Red Tractor seemed to be ramping up British standards to shoppers.

He said it was telling, however, that the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals put a submission in the FTA that New Zealand had better animal care standards and hopefully this would rub off on UK farmers.

The Brits are championing the castration of lambs within seven days compared with New Zealand’s six months.

Mr Hoggard said this was unreasonable as newborns were indoors and attempting to do this in New Zealand paddocks would only cause mismothering.

He said UK farmers should take a long-term approach with New Zealand and Australia, as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans Pacific Partnership gave them access to the prized Asian market.

‘‘Over half of dairy products on sale in the UK are imported so they are used to trade and competition and this is nothing new. At the moment, the Asian market is the lucrative one for us and we aren’t suddenly going to down tools and send to the UK.’’

Mr Hoggard said hopefully their farmers would see reason over time.

- By Tim Cronshaw

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