Trump’s UK ambassador hits out at US farming ‘smears’

The EU has a ‘Museum of Agriculture’ approach to farming that blocks innovation, said Woody Johnson.

The U.K. should ignore “smears” about U.S. farming methods and move away from the EU’s “Museum of Agriculture” approach, said Woody Johnson, Washington’s ambassador to the U.K.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Johnson urges U.K. citizens to embrace a bilateral trade deal that includes a loosening of the EU’s agriculture standards.

During negotiations over the now-abandonned TTIP trade deal between the EU and U.S., the prospect of imports of genetically modified tomatoes and “chlorinated chicken” from the U.S. led to protests in the U.K. ButPresident Donald Trump’s administration is hoping for a second chance to open the U.K. market to these products after the country’s EU divorce.

Johnson said that U.K. consumers had been presented with a false choice. “Either stick to EU directives, or find yourselves flooded with American food of the lowest quality. Inflammatory and misleading terms like ‘chlorinated chicken’ and ‘hormone beef’ are deployed to cast American farming in the worst possible light,” he wrote.

“It is time the myths are called out for what they really are: a smear campaign from people with their own protectionist agenda.”

Different approaches in the U.K. and EU are “not a question of quality but philosophy,” Johnson argued. The U.S. embraces innovation to bring “safe, affordable food” to the world, while the EU emphasizes tradition — a “Museum of Agriculture approach.”

Johnson rebutted some specific concerns: Chlorine washing chicken is a “public safety no-brainer” to eliminate germs, he wrote, pointing out the EU producers do the same to decontaminate fruit and vegetables. And he argued that using growth hormones meant beef could be produced at “lower cost to both the environment and the consumer.”

He urged Britons to join the U.S. to “shape the agricultural revolution of the future.”

Pooches, politicians and other animals

From Putin’s dogs to cuddly koalas, leaders can’t resist a pet project.

Donald Trump is the first U.S. president for more than a century not to have a dog as a pet in the White House (presumably because it would out-think him). But is he missing a trick?

Two of his good friends — and many others — would no doubt think so.

Throughout history, animals have been used to win over enemies, forge alliances and, sometimes, to intimidate one’s opponents. Here are some examples of when pets scored political points.

Vladimir Putin and his dogs

For the Russian president, dogs are up there with his great loves — stealing bits of other countries and jailing political opponents.

Putin’s love of dogs means a politician simply needs to give him a pooch as a gift and they’ll automatically be in his good graces.

Putin likes to be photographed cuddling his dogs almost as much as be likes to be photographed shirtless while riding horses.

The latest example took place last week, when Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić gave Putin a Šarplaninac (or Yugoslavian shepherd) puppy named Pasha. The gift reflects Vučić’s efforts to stay close to Russia, Belgrade’s traditional ally, while also moving closer to the European Union. Putin has claimed that the EU is forcing Serbia to make an “artificial choice” between Moscow and the West, as well as complaining about the expansion of NATO into the Balkans. The Kremlin also rejects Kosovo’s independence from Serbia, in contrast to most Western countries.

Pasha will have company in the Kremlin. In late 2017, the president of Turkmenistan, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, gave the Russian leader a Central Asian shepherd puppy known as an alabai during talks in Sochi that focused on natural gas exports, and not on Turkmenistan’s appalling treatment of animals.

And in 2011, Putin was given a dog called Yume (which means “dream” in Japanese) by the governor of Japan’s Akita prefecture to say thanks for Russia’s assistance following the tsunami. (In late 2016, Japan wanted to present the Russian president with a second Akita Inu dog, but Moscow politely declined.)

A year before that, Putin was given a Karakachan dog by Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov to celebrate the signing of a series of energy deals. The dog was later named Buffy by a 5-year-old boy who won a nationwide competition. Putin said he merely liked the name and it had nothing to do with the TV show “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

Putin’s labrador wanders around while Merkel and Putin address the press, January 2007 | Dmitry Astakhov/AFP via Getty Images

Putin likes to be photographed cuddling his dogs almost as much as be likes to be photographed shirtless while riding horses. But he has other uses for his canine friends. In 2007, Putin let his black labrador, Koni, wander about during a meeting with Angela Merkel.

“The dog does not bother you, does she? She’s a friendly dog and I’m sure she will behave herself,” Putin said during the meeting.

The dog did bother her. The German chancellor is terrified of dogs after being bitten by one in 1995 and had this to say after the meeting: “I understand why he has to do this — to prove he’s a man.”

Koni has since died. (Merkel had an alibi — probably.)

Jean-Claude Juncker to the rescue

The European Commission president is now the proud owner of Caruso, a mongrel terrier who was rescued from “certain death” at a Spanish dog pound. Caruso (named after “CSI: Miami” actor David, maybe) replaces Plato, another rescue dog who died recently, as Juncker’s canine companion.

But what should have been a heartwarming story of man saves dog has taken a political twist because, according to the Telegraph, the journey to fetch Caruso from a Bavarian dogs’ home was undertaken at taxpayers’ expense. The swine!

Rumors that the British government is planning to kill all European breeds of dog after Brexit were unconfirmed at the time of going to press.

Panda gifts

The Chinese used pandas to smooth international tensions for years. After U.S. President Richard Nixon traveled to Beijing in 1972 to open diplomatic relations with China, the United States was sent Ling Ling and Hsing Hsing, who lived in the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington for decades. Nixon reciprocated Chairman Mao Zedong’s gift, sending two musk ox in return.

Two years after Nixon’s visit, British Prime Minister Edward Heath requested a pair of pandas for the U.K., and duly received them — Ching-Ching and Chia-Chia. But by 1984, the Chinese had decided not to give pandas as gifts, but rather to offer them on 10-year loans, and with annual payments meant to be used for panda conservation.

Edward Heath feeds Chia-Chia in London Zoo, 1974 | Simon Dack/Keystone/Getty Images via Hulton Archive

Frisky beavers

In the 17th century, the U.K. granted the Hudson’s Bay Company in Canada the right to exploit resources around the bay. The fee was two elk skins and two black beaver pelts to be presented during every visit by the British royalty (which is also how Jacob Rees-Mogg pays his nanny).

In 1970, however, the company tried something different and gave Queen Elizabeth two live beavers. Apparently, the animals became rather frisky during the ceremony, and the queen asked what the two were doing. The governor of Hudson’s Bay, Viscount Amory, reportedly responded that he had no idea, as he was a bachelor.

Bear hugs

Tony Abbott’s smartest move as Australian prime minister may well have been to bring out the big, cute guns during the 2014 G20 summit — koalas.

Abbott and Obama koalas ahead of the first G20 meeting in Brisbane, Australia | Andrew Taylor/G20 Australia via Getty Images

World leaders lined up to be photographed with one of the koalas — from Barack Obama to Merkel, from Juncker to Putin.

Alas, Australia’s opposition parties weren’t quite so happy, claiming that marsupial hugging at various events including the G20 cost the taxpayer $400,000 (€252,000).

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Superbug risks fail to dent attitudes to antibiotics

Antimicrobial-resistant infections could be killing more than 33,000 people a year in Europe.

Warnings about drug-resistant superbugs aren’t enough to change most people’s behavior on using antibiotics, according to a Europe-wide poll out Thursday.

The Eurobarometer survey reported seven in 10 people who received information telling them not to take antibiotics unnecessarily said it didn’t change their views on using them.

Excess use of the drugs is contributing to a growing threat of antimicrobial resistance and related infections. As germs multiple they can develop the ability to defeat the medicines designed to kill them — and those infections could be killing more than 33,000 people a year in Europe, according to recent estimates.

“It is ridiculous,” European Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis said in response to the fact that people aren’t responding to warnings, at an event in Brussels Thursday. “We have science on one hand and lack of trust on the other.”

“Unless we act decisively, immediately and together, we could face a public health and financial disaster,” he added.

The EU is failing to gain traction with its effort to get member countries to combat the rise of resistance.

The Eurobarometer survey showed the number of people who had taken antibiotics in the last 12 months fell from 40 percent in 2009 to 32 percent in 2017. But less than half of people said they were aware that antibiotics don’t work to treat viruses, and 20 percent said they take antibiotics to treat flu or colds.

Seven percent of people said they took antibiotics without having seen a doctor or getting a prescription.

Andriukaitis said the survey, which polled around 27,400 people in 28 countries, shows Europeans “are still not sufficiently aware of the dangers of AMR.”

A report from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) on Thursday raised particular concern about the rise of superbugs in hospitals and care centers — estimating there are around 8.9 million cases of health care-associated infections in European facilities each year, many of them caused by multidrug-resistant bacteria.

Brussels is largely forced to take a backseat to national capitals | George Frey/Getty Images

The ECDC said these infections are being fueled in part by overprescribing of so-called broad-spectrum antibiotics, which wipe out multiple forms of bacteria and are stronger than traditional, more targeted antibiotics such as penicillin. Prophylactic antibiotics, meaning those prescribed before a surgery in anticipation of potential infection, are also being prescribed for too many days, it said.

Meanwhile the EU is failing to gain traction with its effort to get member countries to combat the rise of resistance.

The Commission released a One Health Action Plan in 2017 that included guidelines on how to ensure prudent use of antimicrobials in people, and promised to promote global standards in areas such as trade. It also set aside funding for research to monitor and control potentially fatal infections, and develop new antibiotics or vaccines to combat transmission.

But the EU’s limited competence in health means Brussels is largely forced to take a backseat to national capitals. While governments such as the U.K., Sweden and Finland have made fighting antimicrobial resistance a priority, Andriukaitis said Thursday he’s frustrated the EU can’t be more effective.

“Our main goal is to show that the EU is a best practice region fighting against AMR. But it will be empty words if you do not have concrete instruments at member states level,” he said.

Last line of defense

One area the Commission has been able to push new rules in on the use of antimicrobials in farm animals.

Andriukaitis said he is expecting a “major breakthrough in a few days” when the Council of the European Union will greenlight new rules on veterinary medicines and medicated feeds. These are designed to phase out the prophylactic use of antimicrobials as well as preventing their use to promote growth in cattle.

The EU will also under the new rules ringfence a protected list of antibiotics for human-use only — part of an attempt to keep drugs that still work in humans from becoming obsolete.

Malta and Croatia were named for their poor performances | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The proposed list, a joint effort between the ECDC, the European Medicines Agency and the European Food Safety Authority, is expected to be put out for consultation next month, according to the ECDC.

ECDC Director Andrea Ammon said at the event Thursday that getting patients, health care providers and national governments to cut down on unnecessary prescribing will take time but there is still a chance to limit the threat from AMR.

The ECDC’s efforts to monitor antimicrobial resistance country-by-country in Europe have been “quite powerful because no one wants to be at the bottom” of the list, Ammon said. The agency also visits European countries at their request to assess their national antimicrobial resistance plans and recommend improvements.

Eight European countries saw a statistically significant drop in public consumption of antibiotics between 2013 and 2017, according to ECDC data released Thursday: Finland, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the U.K.

One area the Commission has been able to push new rules in on the use of antimicrobials in farm animals | AFP via Getty Images

Malta and Croatia were named for their poor performances, recording increases in antimicrobial consumption in hospitals.

A report on antibiotic use in humans by the World Health Organization published Monday concluded Greeks consume the most antibiotics on average in Europe, with Italy, France and Belgium also named as having high use.

Improvements are “not something that will happen very quickly because this epidemic has built up over years and it will take some years until it goes down. It needs sustained efforts,” Ammon said.

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World’s cartoonists on this week’s events

Drawing the top stories around the globe.

First published in POLITICO, Belgium, November 10, 2018 | By Rytis Daukantas


First published in Le Temps, Switzerland, November 7, 2018 | By Chappatte


First published in De Volkskrant, The Netherlands, November 1, 2018 | By Schot


First published on, Austria, November 8, 2018 | By Marian Kamensky


First published on The Buffalo News, New York, November 4, 2018 | By Adam Zyglis


First published on, Thailand, November 5, 2018 | By Stephane Peray


First published on, Thailand, November 3, 2018 | By Stephane Peray


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Brexit will allow us to write a tailor-made agriculture policy to improve animal welfare and our environment

When I took up my post as the RSPCA’s Chief Executive in August, one of the first documents in my in-tray was a briefing about how Brexit will affect animal welfare. I suspect for many people, they have never simply thought about how Brexit impacts animal welfare. When asked, 80% of the public said they […]

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When I took up my post as the RSPCA’s Chief Executive in August, one of the first documents in my in-tray was a briefing about how Brexit will affect animal welfare. I suspect for many people, they have never simply thought about how Brexit impacts animal welfare. When asked, 80% of the public said they do not want to see welfare standards watered down.

But with 80% of our welfare laws made in Brussels, of course Brexit hugely impacts animal welfare. And for no animals is this more true than for farm animals.

Brexit is the defining event for farming and farm animals in the UK in a generation. Last month MPs debated the Government’s suggested independent agriculture policy. Amazingly this was the first debate on agriculture policy since 1947, before many of the current intake of MPs were even born, although one MP followed his grandfather in discussing the policy. Since 1973, it’s been the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) that has defined British farming.

No matter how you voted, we can all agree that the CAP has not delivered the best outcomes for British farmers and farm animals. Why? Because as its name suggests, it is common to 28 countries but is not specific to any of them. It remains a policy that spends 80% of its money – your money – solely on ownership of land. The more land you own, the more money you get. You are not even expected to produce much, and only have to comply with the baseline legal standards.

The CAP has certainly not delivered animal welfare in the UK. Although funding for animal welfare has been around since 2007, budgets are tiny: 0.5%. In England, no funding has ever been provided for animal welfare schemes. It’s not surprising that in England the CAP has resulted in negative impacts on both the environment and animal welfare. By failing to support higher welfare systems it creates conditions allowing more intensive, lower welfare farming methods to flourish.

Brexit allows us to move away from this approach, tailor our own agricultural policy based on our own world-leading animal welfare standards and properly recognise and encourage British farmers who want to follow better systems for their animals.

The Government’s new approach to farming, set out in the Agriculture Bill, is a system based on public money for public goods; public goods which crucially include animal welfare. A first, big step forward. In some areas, British farmers already farm to some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world, but in others they have fallen behind. They need a leg up to make improvements to their farms to deliver higher standards of animal welfare.

They also need the consumer to know this which is why we support – and the Government are looking at – mandatory labelling of how our chicken or beef got to our plates. We know this works. Mandatory egg labelling has made a huge difference to the numbers of free range eggs as consumers vote with their wallets.

We can do so much more. Brexit also provides us the opportunity to deliver this on a wide range of issues, including banning live animal exports, improving how we slaughter farm animals and reducing the times taken to transport animals from the farm to the slaughterhouse. No longer will our hands be tied by European rules. I hope that the Government is prepared to seize this opportunity with both hands. The signs are good so far that they are.

However, Brexit is not all sunlit uplands for British farmers and their animals. It will only work if we ensure we are not undercut by cheaper imports produced from less humane standards – in other words we need to keep our high standards, not lose them to other countries. The great unknown that is our future trading relationship with the rest of the world. As we approach B-Day it is absolutely essential that any future trade deals the UK strikes keep our standards intact by not allowing cheap, less humane imports to undercut our farmers. We must approach trade deals with the same standards we enforce domestically. We must ensure that these trade deals have language in them relating to animal welfare. We cannot allow the drive to become an international trading nation to undermine our animal welfare standards and threaten the livelihoods of British farmers. And it’s not just us saying this. Voices from across British agriculture – including the NFU – agree.

It’s been heartening to hear ministers from across Government commit to protect our animal welfare standards as we leave the EU. They must now deliver on these excellent intentions. High welfare standards will be an integral part of the appeal of British food and vital to the British competitive farming. The animals, farmers and consumers alike demand it.

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