The EU-New Zealand trade deal includes animal welfare conditionality


The EU-New Zealand trade deal includes animal welfare conditionality

9 July 2023
Press Release

On Sunday 9 July, the EU and New Zealand officially signed their Free Trade Agreement (FTA) after five years of negotiation. While the FTA liberalises trade for all animal-based products, thereby further stimulating animal agriculture in the EU and New Zealand, Eurogroup for Animals still welcomes that the beef quota is reserved for grass-fed animals.

This is only the second time the EU negotiates an animal welfare condition in a trade agreement. The controversial EU-Mercosur FTA introduced the first one in relation to shelled eggs. Yet, the volume of shelled eggs imported by the EU from the Mercosur countries is quite low. In the case of New Zealand, the EU managed to obtain an animal welfare condition for one of the animal products most traded between the partners. While New Zealand only had one feedlot built for exports to Japan, recently there has been a push to establish new ones, and this condition in the FTA will ensure EU consumption is not responsible for that. 

We welcome the explicit exclusion of meat derived from commercial feedlots from the list of products benefitting from preferential access thanks to the FTA, also based on sustainability reasons. In addition to being a significant source of pollution, feedlots are detrimental to animals as they suffer from respiratory and digestive diseases, which are the main causes for cattle death under such rearing conditions. So far, EU trade policy has been blind to the unsustainable methods of production it can stimulate abroad, including the development of feedlots.  

This trade agreement shows that the EU can condition relevant trade flows to higher animal welfare standards. The EU should apply this approach to all animal products in FTAs, and negotiate ambitious animal welfare conditions with all trading partners, including Mercosur countries. Why would it be sustainable to include meat derived from commercial feedlots in the quota granted in the EU-Mercosur agreement, when it’s not sustainable to do so with New Zealand? Especially as feedlots are a much more common method of production in Mercosur countries.
Reineke Hameleers, CEO, Eurogroup for Animals

Apart from this condition on preferential market access for beef, the FTA, like many others, includes a chapter on animal welfare cooperation. Yet, the language used in this chapter remains aspirational and the impact of such wording will only depend on the political willingness of the EU and New Zealand to work on this together. Surprisingly, the language on animal welfare has been separated from the chapter on Sustainable Food Systems (SFS), contrary to most recent EU FTAs. This means that in that chapter, no mention is made to animal welfare or to the close connections between animal welfare and public and environmental wellbeing. This creates silos that can be harmful and create detrimental trade-offs for animals. 

The EU-New Zealand FTA has also been praised for being the first EU trade deal integrating sanctions in its Trade and Sustainable Development (TSD) chapter. While this is welcome, it does not change the intrinsic issue that if the language used in such a chapter is often non-committal, which is the case for provisions related to wild and aquatic animals, no violation can be found.

Introducing animal welfare-based conditions in FTAs, as the EU did with New Zealand, is one option to avoid that the EU further externalises its animal welfare concerns. However, as negotiations of trade agreements can be long and difficult, Eurogroup for Animals calls on the European Commission to seize the unique opportunity offered by the revision of the EU’s animal welfare legislation to propose the inclusion of all animal products placed on the EU market, regardless of their origin, within its scope.