How Brazilian elections could have tremendous impact on animals
Not only for the wildlife inhabiting the Amazon rainforest and other currently protected areas, but also for the animals populating the country’s vast number of factory farms. On 28 October, Brazilians will elect their new President. After a near-majority result in the first round, Jair Bolsonaro, who is famous for his racist, homophobic, authoritarian and misogynistic rhetoric, is seen as the front-runner and it seems unlikely that the opposition will manage to gather support behind the candidate of the Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT), Fernando Haddad. A victory of Bolsonaro is likely to have a horrendous impact on the environment, but also on animals.
When expanding on his views regarding the environment, Bolsonaro stated he wanted Brazil to leave the Paris Agreement, to scrap the Ministry of Environment and combine it with the Ministry of Agriculture, and to stop protecting the Amazon, allowing for a paved highway to be built through it and opening indigenous lands to mining. He also believes international NGOs – such as Greenpeace or WWF – should be banned from operating in Brazil.
None of this comes as a surprise: Bolsonaro has the full support of what is called the “BBB” caucus in the Brazilian Parliament – “BBB” standing for Bullets, Bible and… Beef. As one of his key programmatic point is to ensure less interference from the State in the rural sector, Bolsonaro is unlikely – if that was not clear yet – to take any action to improve the welfare of animals farmed in Brazil.
Interestingly, Bolsonaro’s advisors have also stated how they see the future of Brazil’s trade policy, and this could have another set of implications for animals. In Bolsonaro’s view, it’s time for Brazil to evaluate its membership of Mercosur, which he thinks stops Brazil from being more active on the trade scene. One of his party’s main points is that the Mercosur should be made more flexible, allowing its members (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay) to enter into separate, bilateral trade negotiations. Interestingly, such line could help other Mercosur countries rather than Brazil, at least with regard to trade with the EU.
In the unfortunate case of a Bolsonaro’s victory on 28 October, the EU is unlikely to actively continue negotiating with Mercosur – at least there will have to be a period of indignation. In the short term, this is good news for the animals. The current text negotiated by both Parties did not include any condition to protect animal welfare in the granting of preferential access to the EU market. Also, the provisions on animal welfare cooperation were increasingly being watered down. In the medium term, this political stalemate could push other Mercosur countries to request bilateral negotiations with the EU – especially if a reform of Mercosur is developing in that direction.
Those developments will have to be monitored carefully by animal protection NGOs. Argentina and Uruguay are important sources of animal-based products for the EU, as well as key producers of horsemeat and horseblood products. If these countries were to request bilateral negotiations, it will be important to urge the European Commission to establish new mandates that better reflect civil society concerns that have grown in the past 20 years, such as animal welfare.
While no statement has been made, the EU is awaiting the results of the Brazilian elections before setting a date for the next negotiation round. Could a victory of Bolsonaro put the final nail in the coffin of the 20-year negotiations between the two regions? We will sadly find out soon.
Stephanie Ghislain, Trade and Animal Welfare Project Leader