Zac Goldsmith criticises plans to shelve import bans on fur and foie gras

Zac Goldsmith has spoken out against the UK government’s plans to shelve import bans of fur and foie gras, which were supposed to be a “Brexit bonus”.

Thérèse Coffey, the environment secretary, told the Sunday Telegraph that she planned not to take forward post-Brexit animal welfare plans championed by the Boris Johnson government, in which Lord Goldsmith was the cabinet minister responsible.

The plans to ban imports of the products were criticised by some on the right wing of the party, and now the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has said it will not be taken forward, citing a “limited amount of parliamentary time” and the need to “prioritise certain things”.

Related: ‘Torture in a tin’: Miriam Margolyes and others urge ban on foie gras imports

However, the peer, who is now a minister in the Foreign Office, told the Guardian that the government should stick to its post-Brexit animal welfare commitments.

Goldsmith said: “The action plan for animal welfare, which contains fur and foie gras import bans, is a fantastic package of relatively easy-win commitments. People in this country care very much about animal welfare and that should be reflected in actions taken by government. There is an expectation that government will see these reforms through, and of course we should.”

In 2021, the government hailed its action plan, and claimed that leaving the EU meant it could take steps to stop cruelty abroad. Fur and foie gras production are banned on cruelty grounds in the UK but products can still be imported. Foie gras is produced when geese and ducks are prevented from exercising and force-fed so that their livers grow abnormally fat.

Goldsmith recently likened the production of the delicacy to assaulting a household pet, tweeting: “It should be banned everywhere. You (rightly) can’t kick a cat, but producing foie gras takes cruelty to a whole new level. It is an abomination.”

Other measures included in the animal welfare plan, which have not yet been taken through parliament, include a ban on the advertisement of elephant-riding holidays abroad and a ban on the import of hunting trophies.

Campaigners accused ministers of pandering to a minority. Claire Bass, the senior director of public affairs and campaigns at Humane Society International/UK, said: “A tiny minority of Conservative ministers and backbenchers appear to have a temporary stranglehold on the government’s ambitions to tackle cruel and unnecessary imports like fur.

“But this is a viewpoint that is putting the government out of step with public opinion and expectations, across all geographies and social demographics of Britain. The environment secretary and all MPs should be assured that voters’ disgust for the cruelty of the fur trade is consistent.”

A government spokesperson said: “Fur farming has been banned in the UK for over 20 years, and the production of foie gras by force-feeding is already illegal in the UK. The UK has some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world and, as set out in our action plan for animal welfare, we are committed to building a clear evidence base to inform future decisions on these issues. We are gathering information and speaking to a range of interested parties to help us do this.”