Call for stronger standards in EU trade talks

Richard Mussel, RSPCA Australia’s CEO, has called on Australian and European Union political leaders to take the opportunity to ‘raise the bar on animal welfare standards in Australia’ as the Free Trade Agreement currently being negotiated nears completion. 

“The FTA provides an exciting and crucial opportunity to, not just improve market access for producers, but to establish clear priorities for cooperation provisions on animal welfare and accelerate improvements by aligning animal welfare standards based on the stronger standard as assessed on accepted animal welfare criteria,” he said.

In the organisation’s response to an earlier FTA draft it stated animal welfare was a critical component of sustainable development and had implications for all three pillars of sustainability – economic, social, and environmental. Mussel reiterated the importance of recognising global concern about animal welfare safeguards in the Agreement’s final version. 

“Animals aren’t inanimate commodities. Their welfare must be considered and protected in trade agreements like this. Practices that result in poor animal welfare face increasing community scrutiny, both here and overseas. Extreme confinement systems, invasive husbandry procedures and practices that expose animals to significant risk, and poor welfare are neither sustainable nor publicly acceptable,” he said.

Although a growing number of Australian producers provide pain relief to some farm animals for painful husbandry procedures, it is not mandatory, but in the EU practices such as the mulesing of lambs, and the dehorning and castration of cattle are expected to be conducted with pain relief. Keeping layer hens confined to barren battery cages was also not permitted in the EU, but Mussel said there was still no commitment in all Australian states and territories to phase out battery cages by 2036 – as per Australia’s new Poultry Standards and Guidelines. “The RSPCA calls on Australian and European representatives to address the matter of equivalency provisions in the final version of the Agreement, to safeguard animal welfare, respond to growing global concern, and take this opportunity to promote the implementation of high animal welfare standards,” he said.

Anne Layton-Bennett

Pic caption: Richard Mussel

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