With election fever mounting, parties are making big, bold promises on an almost daily basis. We’ve heard policies on everything from immigration to tax avoidance, but where do our leaders stand on getting better food onto the nation’s dining tables?
Everyone’s talking about the UK general election: parties, policies and Paxman TV grillings. With only a few weeks to go till the big event, politicians are at their most competitive, frantically trying to get their voices heard and, ultimately, win more votes.
But beneath the loudest layer of political debate and discussion, we’ve been digging around to find out just how our leaders feel about food and farming – and the urgent need to reform the current system. Will they prioritise more humane and sustainable food for all? Here’s a rundown of key policies in this area from the major players.
The Tories are big on British, promising to promote British food abroad and guaranteeing that all central-government departments will buy food “to British standards of production” by the end of the Parliament. In other policies, the party will support a science-led approach to GM crops and pesticides, will push for “further reform” of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and will champion clearer food labelling. They will also ensure farmers receive a fair deal from supermarkets.
The Greens say they would put an end to factory farming. They stand firmly against the painful mutilation of farm animals (beak trimming and tail docking), cages for rabbits and hens, zero-grazing dairy units, the preventative use of antibiotics in farms and live exports for slaughter and fattening. At the same time, the party champions better food labelling, mandatory CCTV in slaughterhouses, the uptake of flexitarian diets and more humane-sustainable farming methods, including extensive grazing and free-range units.
The Labour Party says in its election manifesto that it intends to build on its “strong record on animal welfare” by putting in place a long-term strategy to “promote the best of British produce” and protect food producers from unfair treatment by supermarkets. They have also stated that they would work to create better-paid jobs and apprenticeships in agriculture.
The Lib Dems say they want to improve farm-animal welfare (including reviewing the use of crates, cages and routine preventive antibiotics), increase the uptake of local, seasonal food, and support conservation efforts and environmental protection (including tackling climate change). The continued reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is also on their agenda, in order to find new ways to ensure sustainable solutions to the growing demand for food.
The Party of Wales pledges to improve animal welfare by supporting the appointment of a European-level animal-welfare commissioner. It also recognises the importance of supporting sustainable sea fishing and seafood production, rebuilding soil quality and biodiversity, and reducing “food miles”. It would also pass a Food Waste Bill, which would see large food manufacturers and retailers reduce waste, and are anti-GMO.
Scottish National Party
We are awaiting information from the Scottish National Party on their food and farming policies.
UKIP insists that, as a “libertarian” party, it will not be “telling farmers how to farm or the public what to eat”. It says it’s keen to reduce and avoid antibiotic use in farm animals as much as possible, abolish the live export of animals for slaughter and improve food labelling (to include method-of-production details), so that consumers have more agency when it comes to shaping the food system.
Make your voice heard
If you feel strongly, as we do, that humane and sustainable food production should be a priority in the next government, then use our handy tool to send a letter to your local party candidates, telling them exactly why you want to end factory farming. To date, over 16,000 of us have now contacted our prospective parliamentary candidates. Thank you!
Finishing on an inspiring note: the opposition party in New Zealand said last summer that it wants factory farming banned by 2017 – a brave move, and one that we’re holding out for here in the UK, as our politicians wake up to the brutal realities of intensive-livestock farming. You can help speed up this process.
You can find out more about each party’s food and farming policies here. We will update this feature as and when more party manifestos are published.
Have you written to your local party candidates about the need for an overhaul of our farming system? It’s not too late!