The UK held its most recent general election on 12 December 2019, just seven months ago. In its manifesto, the Conservative Party pledged that in post-Brexit trade talks it “would not compromise” on animal welfare or food standards.
That pledge was backed up by statements in the House of Commons. “We will not be importing chlorinated chicken. We will not be importing hormone-treated beef”, we were told just five months ago by the then environment secretary Theresa Villiers.
But now it is clear that we have been lied to: the UK government has bowed to US pressure in its desperation to secure a trade deal.
Despite all those fine promises and statements, post-Brexit Britain will be importing chlorinated chicken and far worse from the USA.
American chicken goes through the process of chlorination in order to treat the high levels of bacteria routinely present in the birds. Those bacteria levels result from much worse standards of hygiene and animal welfare than those here in the UK. Indeed, many common practices in US farming are currently banned here.
US farmers are permitted to feed fast growth hormones that are banned here to their beef cattle.
US pork, which would also form part of the trade deal, contains another growth-inducing drug called ractopamine, which is banned in over 150 countries, including all EU countries, Russia and China.
The Chief Economist of the USA’s Farm Bureau Federation has previously made clear that any US-UK trade deal would require the UK accepting previously banned US food imports, not only chicken, beef and pork but also unlabelled genetically modified foods and a vast array of other food products produced using chemicals that have long been banned in the UK.
It doesn’t take a genius to predict where this is going to take us.
If the government allows currently banned food products to be imported into the UK, then those products, with their lower standards, will be able to out-compete British food products that are required to be produced to a higher standard.
This is likely to result in one of two things: either British farmers and food producers will be put out of business, or the government will level the playing field by reducing the higher standards of food hygiene and animal welfare required of British producers.
Brexit was supposed to be about taking back control. Instead we have are about to hand over ultimate control of our food standards to the USA, without so much as a whimper.
I used home-grown purple podded peas for the recipe, but it’s fine to use frozen peas if you don’t have access to fresh ones.
Serve this dish with rice as a meal on its own, or try it as an accompaniment to my chickpea curry.
spicy tofu and pea curry
1 onion, finely chopped
280 g organic firm tofu
150 g organic peas, fresh or frozen
2 red chillies, seeds in, chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
3 cm piece ginger, peeled and chopped
1 can organic chopped tomatoes
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp sea salt
20 g fresh coriander, chopped
2 tbsp ground nut, or similar vegetable oil
1. Depending on the type of tofu you are using, you may need to squeeze out any excess moisture. Do this by wrapping the block of tofu in a clean tea towel or several layers of kitchen paper and placing it between two flat chopping boards or baking trays. Put weights carefully on top and leave for at least thirty minutes. Cut the pressed tofu into roughly 2 cm cubes.
2. Use a blender or a pestle and mortar to blend the garlic, chilli and ginger into a paste.
3. Heat the groundnut oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the cumin seeds. They will sizzle and start to brown. After thirty seconds add the onions and cook, stirring for five minutes or until the onion is soft and translucent. Add the tofu cubes, turmeric, sea salt and the chilli, garlic and ginger paste and stir carefully for another minute. Add the chopped tomatoes and 150 ml fresh water, followed by the peas. Stir and bring to a simmer.
4. Reduce the heat to low. Cook for a further 15 minutes, stirring periodically. Remove from the heat, stir in the coriander and serve.