Boris Johnson has been called upon to ban imports of foie gras and fur in a post-Brexit Britain to make the UK a “world leader on animal welfare”.
Rock stars, sports and television personalities and animal welfare campaigners have signed an open letter to the Prime Minister amid concerns he plans to ditch the ban following opposition from Cabinet ministers.
The letter, signed by Brian May, the Queen guitarist, and Dame Joanna Lumley, comes after more than 30,000 people signed a petition calling on Downing Street to enshrine in law a ban on imports in its Animals Abroad Bill.
But Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Brexit Opportunities Minister, was recently said to be among those arguing such a ban would restrict personal choice.
Fur farming and the production of foie gras, which involves force-feeding ducks or geese, are already banned in the UK. However, campaigners claim around 200 tons of foie gras and tens of millions of pounds worth of fur continue to arrive on British shores each year.
The letter claims it would be “a great betrayal” of the public’s aspirations to promote animal welfare, particularly after a recent poll found 70 per cent of people in the UK supported both bans.
It adds that “animals need and deserve more than warm words on animal welfare” and urges Mr Johnson to take urgent action to introduce legislation to “make the UK the proud world leader on animal welfare you want us to be”.
It has also been signed by Marc Abraham, a vet, Tracy Edwards, the British sailor who sailed around the world, Vanessa-Mae, the violinist, Johnny Marr, the guitarist from The Smiths, and comedians Ricky Gervais, Romesh Ranganathan, Jon Richardson and Josh Widdicombe.
Abigail Penny, executive director of Animal Equality UK, said: “The Government had no such concerns about personal choice when halting imports of elephant ivory, dog and cat meat, seal fur and whale meat.
“It is already a recognised crime to produce foie gras made by force-feeding in the UK, so to continue to import and profit from this cruelty is entirely unjustifiable. To backtrack at this stage would be a travesty.”
The Conservative 2019 manifesto pledged to protect animals, stating to do so was necessary in “a civilised society”.
A spokesman for the Government said it was “committed” to upholding world-leading standards in animal welfare.
She added: “The production of foie gras from ducks or geese using force-feeding is rightly banned in the UK as it is incompatible with our own welfare standards and fur farming has been banned in the UK for 20 years.
“Through our Action Plan for Animal Welfare, we have committed to building a clear evidence base to inform decisions on the import or sale of foie gras, but no decisions have yet been made.”