A Missed Opportunity: Throughout CETA negotiations, Eurogroup for Animals has advocated for effective animal welfare provisions which seemed within reach, given Canada’s ideological and cultural similarity with the EU. However, the opportunity was missed, leaving animals worse off after today’s approval of the CETA agreement by the European Parliament (408 votes in favour, 254 against, 33 abstentions).
Reineke Hameleers, Director of Eurogroup for Animals commented “CETA significantly endangers the progress we have made with our European animal welfare standards. We regret that this deal has passed through Parliament with very little consideration given to animal welfare.”
CETA will result in an increase in poor-welfare animal products entering the EU market.
First, CETA removes taxes and other barriers to trade on animal products entering the EU from Canada, likely to result in a steep increase of animal product imports to Europe. For example, CETA grants Canada a 75,000 ton duty free quota for pork, a 65,000 ton duty free quota for beef, and unlimited duty free access for live animals and horsemeat. In 2015, Europe imported only 428 tonnes of beef and live animals . The duty free quotas are therefore so generous to be effectively unlimited, in practice, with the risk of flooding the already saturated European market where meat consumption is in decline.
Second, Canadian animal welfare standards are poorer than those in Europe. Canadian federal and provincial legislation is weak. Reliance is mostly placed on non-binding Codes of Practice which contain rudimentary and voluntary standards.
Finally, CETA does not require EU imports of Canadian animal products to comply with European standards. CETA’s wording on animal welfare is extremely weak, requiring only cooperation. Therefore, CETA does nothing to stop low-welfare Canadian animal products from entering the EU market.
CETA will also harm the competitiveness of EU farmers. EU farmers are obliged to comply with European animal welfare standards. CETA places these farmers in direct competition with cheaper, poorly-regulated Canadian produce. Trade restrictions, removed by CETA, could have counteracted this.
European farmers may pressure the EU to freeze regulation on animal welfare due to this competition from Canadian producers. CETA may even act as a downward pressure on existing standards. This is because CETA requires the parties to conduct regulatory cooperation, which may see Europe and Canada meet in the middle on animal welfare regulation.
Further, European consumers become exposed to sub-standard products because of CETA. CETA lacks labelling and traceability requirements, which would allow consumers to determine the welfare standards animal products comply with. Therefore, CETA denies concerned European consumers the right to make informed choices about animal products they purchase.
Yet, a recent Eurobarometer survey shows that European consumers want imported animal products to meet welfare standards equivalent to those imposed on European producers. CETA fails to respect the desires of the European people in this regard.
What now? CETA will be provisionally applied once the Council provides its final approval of the deal. All EU member states must ratify the deal before it can be applied in its entirety. This may take some time, depending on national ratification procedures.
Eurogroup for Animals calls on Member States to utilise this opportunity not to ratify CETA and to give consideration to animal welfare. Eurogroup for Animals also calls on the CETA parties to now deliver on their commitment to cooperate for animal welfare as enshrined in section 21(4)(s) of CETA. This narrow opportunity must be optimised while we work to minimise the negative impact of CETA.