Animal welfare ambition needed in EU-Australia agreement
As negotiations for a trade agreement between the EU and Australia enter the final stage, Eurogroup For Animals urges both sides to seek ambitious measures on animal welfare.
The EU and Australia together represent 473 million citizens, many of whom believe more should be done to improve the lives of animals. According to a 2019 report commissioned by the federal Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, 9 out 10 Australians are concerned about farming, and nearly as many want a reform to address this.
In Europe, animal welfare is a great ethical concern. The consultation on the Future of Europe found one out of seven EU citizens consider animal welfare a priority issue, 89% of EU citizens want the EU to do more to promote animal welfare at a global level, and 93% consider that imports of animal products should comply with the same animal welfare standards as those applied in the EU.
While animal welfare is linked to sustainable food systems, unconditional trade policies fuel the negative impacts of intensive livestock farming by prioritising profits above all. Notably, 96% of Australian beef exports to the EU are finished in feedlots, which are detrimental to animal welfare, particularly in terms of health and nutrition.
According to the EU’s own impact assessment, a Free Trade Agreement with Australia granting further market access to Australian beef without any animal welfare condition would fuel beef production on feedlots, increasing water, soil and air pollution in Australia. Eurogroup for Animals calls on the EU and Australia to condition the beef quota to meat derived from animals fed with grass, hence explicitly excluding feedlots.
It is also critical that animal welfare be prioritised in the negotiations in relation to the handling (in particular introducing pain relief for all painful procedures and mutilations, including mulesing), transport and slaughter of bovines and sheep.
Other topics less relevant to current trade flows must also be discussed, such as conditioning the lowering of tariffs on broiler-related products to the respect of the coming revised EU rules on broilers, which should to be aligned with the “Better Chicken Commitment” - already endorsed by Australian companies such as HelloFresh, My Food Bag, Marley Spoon and Domino’s - and laying hens with a conditionality on cage-free which would support the Australian government’s pledge to phase out battery cages by 2036.