Competitive spirit

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The Independent Online
From The Rev David E. Flavell

Sir: Helen Browning (letter, 31 July) is against free trade in agriculture in case it allows competition from countries with lower environmental, social and animal welfare standards than our own. Could it just be that our farmers can't cope with competition from more efficient producers and are trying to hid behind a moral smoke-screen?

Today's consumers are quite capable of making decisions on ethical grounds. In the current climate, any nation which badly mistreated its animals or covered its food in chemicals would find its produce quickly boycotted. Responsible behaviour and self-interest go together in modern industries, as Shell found out over Brent Spar.

I doubt whether standards in British farming are any higher than those in America, Australia and New Zealand. I just know that our prices are higher. In other sectors, British business has to face foreign competition and maintain standards - can anybody tell me why farmers are so different?

Yours sincerely,

David Flavell

Peterlee, County Durham