Removing the ban on haggis

Did you know that haggis is banned in the USA? I certainly didn’t. How on earth do American Scots celebrate Burns Night without haggis?

Haggis was banned in the United States in 1971, apparently because it is made from sheeps’ lungs, apart from other unmentionable bits.

I have to admit I don’t particularly like haggis – I usually opt for the veggie version – but am fully aware of its cultural significance.

Jeremy Purvis, aka Lord Purvis of Tweed, is a Lib Dem peer, and he has been suggesting ways to mark the 250th anniversary next year of the ending of the American War of Independence. Yesterday he spoke in the magnificently titled debate on “American War of Independence: Semiquincentennial Commemorations”.

It kicked off with this contribution by the Labour peer, Richard Faulkner, who said:

My Lords, in 1976 there was a state visit by Her Majesty the Queen and Prince Philip to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. During this, they presented a bicentennial bell cast in the same Whitechapel foundry as the Liberty Bell of 1751. They also loaned to the people of the US an original copy of the Magna Carta. Would the Minister like to put on his thinking cap and come up with some equally imaginative suggestions for 2026, which might include, for example, a project run in collaboration with the American Battlefield Trust, to identify and rededicate the graves of British soldiers who rest on revolutionary war battlefields and elsewhere in the United States?

Jeremy Purvis asked:

My Lords, the magisterial biography of the Border reivers by George MacDonald Fraser starts with the inauguration of President Nixon taking over from President Johnson, with Billy Graham giving the eulogy. The Minister references the Pilgrim Society. There was an outward emigration group of Border reiver families after the pilgrims, of less strong character perhaps, from whom so many in America are descended. The story of the Borders, and the story of Scotland, and America is so linked, including Trump’s mother being Scottish – which we overlook.

In response to the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, the Minister could perhaps think about an aged bottle of whisky, which I know the Minister and I both enjoy, but it is also an opportunity for America to withdraw its ban on haggis. The story of Scotland and America is very strong, so can the Minister make sure it is linked to any of the preparations?

Andrew Sharpe, a Government Whip in the Lords and the minister referred to, replied:

My Lords, I have read The Steel Bonnets, which is a very fine book, and I agree with his strong character remarks, which he phrased very artfully. I will certainly take the haggis suggestion back, although I am not sure that I can make any promises.

It turns out that British lamb in general was banned in the US after the outbreak of scrapie in the late 80s. That ban has now been lifted, but the specific prohibition on haggis still exists and goes back much further. A couple of years ago Liz Truss, as International Trade Secretary, was encouraging the US to lift the ban on haggis but without any success.


* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames, where she is still very active with the local party, and is the Hon President of Kingston Lib Dems.

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One Comment

  • Catherine Royce 17th Jul '22 - 2:33pm

    I love it.
    With boiled mashed root veg, greens and a wee dram (try GlenAllachie) you can’t beat it on a cold wet night and there will be plenty of those this autumn. Its very filling, also pretty cheap and the ones sold in supermarkets can be micro-waved, Waitrose also conveniently sell it in slices, although loaded with ‘bad’ fat so maybe only eat as an occasional treat.

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