Agriculture Bill

Briefing from Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST)

Please support the conservation of our native livestock and equines by opposing amendment 3.



Please support the conservation of our native livestock and equines by opposing amendment 3. 

Clause 1(1)(g) gives government the power to give financial assistance for conserving native livestock and equines or genetic resources relating to such animals.

Amendment 3 seeks to undermine the scope of the clause by restricting support to pasture fed grazing for environmental management.

It therefore excludes from support both those animals which do not graze, such as pigs and poultry, and other methods of conserving native livestock and equines, such as through marketing their produce, gene banking and training.

Conservation grazing can, rightly, be supported under other paragraphs of clause 1(1).

Rare Breeds Survival Trust

This briefing is from the Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST). Between 1900 and 1973, the United Kingdom lost 26 of its native breeds of livestock. RBST was established in 1973 to arrest this extinction. The RBST is the sole national organisation which monitors, saves and promotes native breeds of livestock.

Why support native livestock?

All our native livestock and equines should be conserved, not just those which graze. We should not be excluding pigs and poultry.


Native breeds were bred for the British landscape, they can thrive on even marginal grass land with a minimum of expensive inputs.

It’s not just the meat, our native breeds provide wool, skins and horns. With good marketing, emphasising the local connection, native breed produce sells at a premium.

Social and cultural: 

Native breeds are part of our national identity and heritage – and they represent a unique piece of the earth’s biodiversity. 


Grazing with native breeds plays an important role in the development and maintenance of natural habitats and increasing biodiversity. The meadows and pasture we treasure exist because they were grazed by our native breeds. If we want to restore these habitats, the use of native livestock is the way to do it.

Risk reduction 

Genetic resistance is increasingly important for the control of animal diseases, today and in the future.  Saving our native breeds can help us to face as yet unknown challenges in the form of disease resistance and susceptibility, climate adaptation, food security and resilience.



How Government should support native livestock and equines  

Native breed farmers are by nature independently minded and entrepreneurial. They recognise that the best way to conserve our breeds is by promoting their produce. However, there are some breeds, and some benefits provided by the breeds, that cannot be conserved by market measures alone. That is why government support is required.

Conservation grazing

We need to support conservation grazing. The meadows and pastures that we value so much came into being because they were grazed by our native livestock. If we want to restore, or even create more of them, we should be incentivising farmers to keep native livestock.

Paragraphs (a), (c) (d), (e) and (j) of clause 1 (1) all allow for this.

Other ways in which native breeds are conserved

There are other mechanisms for conserving native livestock and equines. These would be excluded under the amendment

  • Gene Bank: The Gene Bank contains rare semen and embryos used to maintain genetic diversity and as insurance against the loss of genetic materials in the event of a disease outbreak. Unlike its equivalents in most countries, it is entirely funded by private donations.


  • Bespoke projects: Some breeds require bespoke conservation programmes to restore their fortunes. At present these projects are entirely funded by generous individuals.


  • Farm Parks: The network of Approved Farm Parks is an essential conservation resource. They have the capacity to carry out co-ordinated conservation projects and to ensure that valuable breeds are dispersed across the country. They do what zoos do for wild animals.


  • Advice: Keeping native breeds requires knowledge and expertise and the main source of advice is other farmers and breeders and the organisations that represent them. But providing advice involves time and money.

Additional information

Contact Christopher Price

07944 842770

[email protected]