Zac Goldsmith has been sacked as an environment minister, amid fears that animal rights could be downgraded under Liz Truss’s Government.
The peer has been removed from his post covering domestic animal welfare, but will retain another position at the Foreign Office, where he is minister of state for the Pacific and international environment.
It comes two months after Lord Goldsmith, who backed Ms Truss for the Conservative leadership, used Twitter to attack Mark Spencer, who has been appointed minister of state in the environment department.
He wrote: “Rishi Sunak has evidently agreed to make Mark Spencer the next Defra secretary of state.
“Mark was the biggest blocker of measures to protect nature, biodiversity, animal welfare.
“He will be our very own little Bolsonaro. Grim news for nature. But great news for political opponents.”
The sacking comes after Downing Street said the reshuffle had been halted during the period of mourning following the Queen’s death.
Lord Goldsmith was a close friend of Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie, but now he has been stripped of his brief he will no longer attend Cabinet.
In a farewell letter to staff at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, seen by the Guardian, Lord Goldsmith said he was “very sad” to be leaving after a “whirlwind” three years, before listing his achievements, including in forestry, plastic pollution and the oceans.
He issued what appeared to be a warning to Truss, saying: “We have so much more to do to turn the tide here.
“The UK is, after all, one of the world’s most nature-depleted countries. But if Defra continues to get the backing you need and deserve across government, you can and you will turn the tide.”
One Tory MP, Henry Smith, said: “Zac has been a fantastic champion of animal welfare issues in government and, despite all the other distractions, he’s been instrumental in delivering quite a few pieces of legislation that have made it on to the statute books…
“I would expect the government to fulfil all its manifesto commitments and pledges on animal welfare, regardless of which individuals occupy roles in various departments.”
Truss ‘had no interest in animal welfare’ while Defra minister
Animal welfare campaigners are concerned that under Ranil Jayawardena, the new environment secretary and a former trade minister, farmers could be undercut on animal welfare grounds in trade deals.
Some Tory MPs believe Ms Truss may be planning to drop the kept animals bill, despite Mr Jayawardena telling the Commons last week that its passage would resume as soon as possible.
One MP said: “Liz might abandon it. She had no interest in animal welfare while a minister in Defra.”
There are also fears that the trophy hunting ban, which Goldsmith had championed against opposition from some Conservative backbenchers, could be dropped. That would mean that importing parts of endangered animals shot abroad would be allowed to continue.
Lorraine Platt, the co-founder of the influential Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation, of which Carrie Johnson is a patron, said she was disappointed by Goldsmith’s removal, as he had been a champion of animal welfare.
“Our government has always maintained that animal welfare standards will be maintained in any trade deals, but this is vitally important that this is honoured and that our farmers are not undercut by low-welfare trade deals. We have higher animal welfare standards here than many countries, so they cannot compete,” she said.
“The UK is behind certain countries on ending cages and crates – that is something Zac wanted to do if he had stayed on. There is still a lot we could do on trade agreements. It is important to the public that animal welfare is advanced, and we hope the government recognises this and continues to uphold and improve our high standards.”