Pet food, animal welfare, and the Agriculture Bill

In 2018, PFMA launched its Pet Food Vision. The vision was developed following the EU referendum when as representatives of the UK pet food industry we considered where we wanted to be as a global player following the UK’s exit from the EU.

The PFMA Pet Food Vision focused on the areas of excellence for British pet food – animal welfare, nutrition and safety and standards. To complete this vision, PFMA adopted a fourth pillar last year on sustainability. It is on these core areas that we want to go out and promote British pet food to the world. 

UK pet food industry is a strong supporter of UK agriculture 

Animal welfare, safety and standards have become buzz words as Government progresses the Agriculture and Trade Bills. The UK pet food industry is a strong supporter of UK farmers and we source 80% of our ingredients from the UK. When it comes to quality and standards, we have some of the highest animal health and welfare standards in the world, and we want these to be maintained.  

As the UK works to secure trade deals, this has been a point of discussion. There has been a real concern that these standards should be protected and not undermined by imports of lower standards and quality. 

Does the Agriculture Bill send the wrong message?

A campaign has been waged to enshrine food safety into law through the Agriculture Bill and to require imported food to meet domestic legal standards. A recent poll by WWF found that 92% of people in the UK think we should protect British standards on food and farm animal welfare in future trade deals. 

A number of amendments to the Agriculture Bill had been tabled to try and achieve this. A more recent attempt looked to tie the Bill to these standards while negotiating Brexit trade deals, but when the Bill returned to the Commons this month, they were defeated. Intense lobbying is still ongoing and with the manifesto pledge to maintain standards, it is hoped a way through will be found. 

Minette Batters from the NFU has urged the Government to increase the parliamentary scrutiny of trade deals, in particular strengthening the Trade and Agriculture Commission to allow MPs to have their say on how trade deals would impact British food and farming.

Are we world leading?

The ongoing lobbying has prompted a lot of discussion – are we really world leading? According to the World Animal Protection Index which ranks countries globally based on their policy commitments to protecting animals, the UK is ranked Grade B (the ranking is from A-G) alongside Sweden, the Netherlands, Austria and Switzerland. This is the highest grade awarded and there are no countries with ‘A’ status. 

Whilst this index is a useful starting point, there has been some discussion on the development of a harmonised global index potentially built around a framework such as the Five Freedoms for animal welfare.  

Are we doing enough to promote brand Britain? 

This is a good question, and the reality is we probably need to be more vocal on promoting brand Britain. This serves as a useful reminder that there is a lot of excellent work ongoing but if we do not talk about it and promote it enough, which includes sharing best practice to improve standards overall, it may remain little known. 

What safety & standards are UK pet foods subject to? 

PFMA represents 87 companies who are responsible for feeding over 90% of the nation’s pets and this is a role we take very seriously. When it comes to safety, the pet food industry is subject to over 50 pieces of legislation. In addition to this, all members sign up to PFMA Charter and Codes of Practice annually, which detail the legal requirements and safety & quality standards members must meet. 

With COVID-19 and Brexit colliding this year, it has been a challenging time, but PFMA is here to support the industry and to help business operations run as smoothly as possible. For more information on these topics, please visit: www.pfma.org.uk 

Submitted by the PFMA

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