LONDON — The U.K. government will scrap proposed bans on the import of fur and foie gras — prompting outrage from Conservative animal welfare campaigners.
The plans were shelved earlier in 2022, leading to fears the promises would be ditched. But now the bans will not go ahead at all after Liz Truss became the new U.K. prime minister and reshuffled her top team.
Pledges to ban the export of live animals for slaughter and the import of hunting trophies are also at risk of ending up on the scrap heap. The ideas have been touted as post-Brexit opportunities, now that the U.K. can control its own trade border.
Last week, environment minister Zac Goldsmith was sacked from his post in the farming department. Goldsmith had been an outspoken animal rights campaigner and was pushing for the changes in government.
“A lot of his causes were very worthy,” said a senior Conservative with knowledge of the planned changes in approach. “But you can be worthy when you’re the son of a billionaire.” Goldsmith’s father was financier James Goldsmith.
Rather than banning imports of fur and foie gras, the government could bring in labeling to explain to consumers the processes used to produce such controversial products. “Banning things seems very socialist. Informing people is the way to go,” the same person said.
Lorraine Platt, co-founder of the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation, said the U.K. should match up its import rules with its domestic production rules — meaning no more imports of fur and foie gras.
“It’s illegal to produce fur in the U.K. and it’s illegal to produce foie gras,” she said. “We have to address the contradiction that if it’s too cruel to be produced here in the U.K. it’s too cruel to import it.”
Meanwhile, ministers could still bring the trophy hunting ban in via carefully-drafted backbench legislation — in the hope of avoiding high profile rows about issues like fox hunting or Scottish deer stalking that attract a lot of public debate.
But the live animal export ban is more likely to be ditched, on the assumption that it isn’t needed because no live animals have been exported for slaughter since Brexit.
One Conservative former minister welcomed the move to junk or ease off on some of the plans. “The Conservative backbenches are crammed with protectionists,” the MP scoffed.
In his parting letter to departmental officials, which POLITICO has seen, Goldsmith hailed recent achievements and issued a warning to colleagues about sticking to the animal welfare agenda. He insisted “there is much more in the pipeline” — name checking the live animal exports and trophy hunting ban as examples.
The farming department failed to comment by the time of publication.