Injecting animal welfare in renewed EU-Latin American trade relationships
As leaders from the EU and from the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) gather in Brussels for the third EU-CELAC summit, willingness to accelerate the conclusion of controversial trade agreements is on the agenda. What’s at stake for animals?
During the EU-CELAC Summit on 17-18 July, the Executive Vice-President of the European Commission and Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Mercosur countries reiterated their “determination to work towards the conclusion of the Agreement between the EU and MERCOSUR by the end of 2023”.
Instead of pushing forward an unsustainable and harmful trade policy, the EU should redesign its trade deals to be compatible with the EU Green Deal and the Farm-to-Fork Strategy. These deals, as exemplified by the EU-Mercosur FTA, grant further unconditional market access to animal based products, leading to an increase in the trade and further fuelling the intensification of farming both in the EU and abroad. This trend not only implies poor animal welfare conditions, but also raises public health concerns in terms of zoonoses and antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Intensification of animal production also generates high levels of deforestation, impacting the welfare of millions of wild animals.
For all these reasons, Eurogroup for Animals, together with 50 civil society organisations from South America and Europe, and with the support of MEPs from the Greens/EFA, the Left and S&D, organised an international conference calling for ‘A new EU-Latin America trade relationship for the 21st Century’.
During the conference, a wide range of speakers from the EU and South America agreed that the EU-Mercosur deal is toxic for indigenous people, workers, the environment and animals, and that the proposed additional protocol offers nothing more than cosmetic, unenforceable adjustments. Furthermore, the risks of the deal aggravating deforestation cannot be restrained by the recent EU legislation on imported deforestation, given that the legislation ignores many products that contribute to deforestation and other biomes destroyed by intensive agriculture. For example, soy-fed animals such as poultry are not covered by the legislation.
Other speakers echoed Eurogroup for Animals’ criticism of the EU-Mexico and EU-Chile agreements. These deals have had devastating consequences for local communities, including pollution and destruction of natural habitats, and their “modernised” versions are likely to have further negative impacts on animal welfare, human rights, deforestation, the climate crisis and biodiversity. While the agreements do include some animal welfare provisions - including on animal sentience and growth promoters and, in the case of Mexico, a standalone chapter on animal welfare and antimicrobial resistance - the language is weak and will do nothing to offset the negative impacts unconditional trade liberalisation will have on animals, people and the planet.
All eyes are now on the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council to avoid fast-tracking the EU-Chile and the EU-Mexico FTAs by side-stepping national and regional parliaments and removing Member States’ veto right. This is critical given the range of negative impacts the agreements will have on animal welfare, human rights, the climate crisis and biodiversity. Concerning the EU-Mercosur FTA, Eurogroup for Animals calls for a full renegotiation of the deal, including conditioning all trade preferences granted in the agreement to EU-equivalent animal welfare standards.