Farmers' tractor demo targets Rishi Sunak over 'dodgy' US meat imports

Farmers drove their tractors down Northallerton’s High Street to protest against Government plans to allow “inferior” mass-produced beef, pork and chicken into the country as part of post-Brexit trade deals with the US and other countries.

Save British Farming protest on Northallerton High Street Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

Demonstrators targeted Chancellor and Richmond MP’s Rishi Sunak’s constituency on Friday in an effort to put pressure on North Yorkshire MPs to “do the right thing” and get behind British farmers, as well as consumers and “everybody who cares about food”.

Passing motorists wound down their windows and clapped and cheered protestors holding banners, including one which demanded: “Hey Rishi why won’t you back Yorkshire farmers?”.

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Speakers included Lord Newby, the Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords, who lives in Ripon, who told around 30 demonstrators that “all we are asking for is to keep the standards we have got.”

People are being urged to write to their MPs to support British farmers Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

A letter was delivered to the MP’s constituency office - but there was no reply when the doorbell was rung.

It comes after the House of Lords backed by a majority of 95 a change to the Agriculture Bill aimed at blocking the import of foodstuffs produced abroad at lower animal welfare standards.

The Bill is due back in the Commons next week and Richard Sadler, a volunteer with Save British Farming, which organised the demonstration, said the pressure was now on Yorkshire’s Conservative MPs to get behind farmers.

The BBC reported that Mr Sunak had voted digitally for a similar amendment, when it came to the Commons in May, but only by mistake.

He had since made it clear that he was minded to support the Agriculture Bill, Mr Sadler said.

The only two others in York and North Yorkshire to vote for the amendment were Labour York Central MP Rachell Maskell and Conservative York Outer MP Julian Sturdy, he added.

Opponents to the Bill say farmers would be undercut by inferior meat produced to lower standards - including factory-farmed beef and pork produced with artificial hormones, that have been linked with cancer and banned in the EU.

Mr Sadler said: “We would be making the UK extremely laissez-faire, free market and where anything goes - this is not supported by the British public.”

He said farmers were already expected to see big reductions in the Basic Payment Scheme, the biggest of the European Union’s rural grants and payments, while a hard Brexit meant tariffs of 40 per cent on beef and lamb exports to the EU.

He said: “Now ministers want to deal farmers a triple whammy by allowing in cheap meat from America and other big meat exporters like Brazil, Argentina and Australia.

“We have some of the highest welfare standards in the world and allowing our home market to be flooded with inferior meat from abroad would deal a hammer blow to the livestock farming sector.

“Farmers are the custodians of Yorkshire’s landscape and a whole way of life that has shaped this region for generations is now under threat, with many farmers at risk of being put out of business.”

Mr Sunak was approached for comment.