During a productive roundtable debate on animal welfare and the future of ethical trade, which took place on 18th October in the European Parliament in Brussels, Cecilia Malmström, the EU-Commissioner for Trade  supported the crucial need to better protect animals in EU trade policy. 90 percent of European consumers want imported products to respect animal welfare standards similar to those applicable in the EU, which is not guaranteed at the moment.

The event which was co-hosted by the Animal Welfare Intergroup  and Eurogroup for Animals, brought together high-level decision-makers and stakeholders  to present new model provisions aimed at better embedding and enforcing animal welfare in future EU Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) [1]. The key concepts on which those provisions rest are: strong cooperation mechanisms to genuinely improve the situation on the ground; the protection of the right to regulate to avoid any chilling effect on new EU-legislation; and conditional liberalisation based on equivalence of standards. The provisions also include wording on trade and sustainable development, calling for the EU to recognise the strong connection between animal welfare and sustainable development.

European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström welcomed the model provisions and described them as “a very interesting proposal to [better address animal welfare in EU trade policy]”. Malmström also reacted positively to the idea of conditional liberalisation based on equivalence of standards, the key principle contained in the model provisions. She also announced that the European Commission was making “good progress towards a [trade] agreement [with Mexico] that would recognise that animals are sentient beings and that would call for improvement of implementation of OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health) standards.”

To support further the need to protect animals in EU trade policy, Karoline Graswander-Hainz MEP (S&D, Austria) underlined how crucial all efforts were to remind  that “it is high time that animal welfare is given proper attention in EU trade policy”.

Reineke Hameleers, Director of Eurogroup for Animals said: ‘‘The EU is a global leader in the field of animal welfare, yet so far trade liberalisation has had a negative impact on animal welfare. Opening our market leads to increasing imports of cheap products with lower animal welfare standards and is causing a chilling effect on new legislation. Eurogroup for Animals’ model provisions can tackle these issues whilst at the same time improve animal welfare across the world.’’

The Animal Welfare Intergroup and Eurogroup for Animals call on the European Commission to investigate the possibilities for applying the model provisions in the ongoing negotiations, notably with Mercosur, and upcoming ones, especially with Australia and New Zealand.

Stephanie Ghislain, Trade & Animal Welfare Project Leader |+32 (0)2 740 08 96 |Email:

[1] Model animal welfare provisions for EU trade agreements

The event saw the participation of high-level stakeholders like Karoline Graswander-Hainz MEP (S&D, AT), Klaus Buchner MEP (Greens/EFA, DE), Stefan Eck MEP (GUE, DE), and representatives of various EU Member States, such as France, Sweden, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and the UK.


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