Debate on Trade and Animal Welfare

On 09/06/2016, in All posts, by Animal Welfare Intergroup

SealToday,  the Intergroup on the Welfare and Conservation of Animals hosted a meeting in Strasbourg’s European Parliament. It was a unique opportunity to discuss the interlinkages between EU trade policy and animal welfare.

The topic of the meeting, which was moderated by the Intergroup President Sirpa Pietikäinen, was the potential for international trade policy to influence animal welfare. The panellists tackled a wide spectrum of areas from farm animal welfare to wildlife and from practical approaches on the ground to policy considerations.

The acknowledgement of the inter-relation of trade and animal welfare was underlying the entire discussion. “With increasing unconditional liberalisation of sensitive animal products and widely different levels of animal welfare protection, EU trade policy must consider the linkages from the regulatory as well as from market access point of view”, said Jan Walter, Project Leader on Trade & Animal Welfare at Eurogroup for Animals.

Dr Joanna Swabe, Humane Society International/Europe’s Executive Director discussed how free trade agreements present an interesting opportunity to increase wildlife protection. She noted, however that “progress is only possible if the FTA parties make strong commitments to improving wildlife protection and dedicate sufficient resources to achieving this through trade capacity building and environmental cooperation work programmes. It is vital that such commitments be made enforceable through binding dispute settlement mechanisms. Sadly, this is not the case for the Sustainable Development chapters currently negotiated as part of EU trade deals.

 The Netherlands’ Presidency, represented in the debate by Jerome Larosch, Dutch trade representative and current chair of the Council’s Trade Policy Committee, placed animal welfare considerations firmly on the trade agenda. Jerome also raised the multilateral dimension as he noted that “it is of utmost importance to push forward the rule-making in FAO, OIE and other multilateral forums.”

The debate then emphasised the need of a proactive approach to tackle animal welfare. Great concerns remain, however, with regards to farm animal welfare, and the threat that trade liberalisation may pose to EU standards. There was a general consensus that a change through EU trade policy can be made only if our demands are matched by our own willingness to invest in technical assistance and by incentivising our trading partners towards a positive change.

MEP members in the audience showed interest in the topic both from general and from specific perspective, notably the TTIP and EU-Japan negotiations were raised. Several remarks noted the need to ensure that the EU complies with own rules before demanding higher welfare standards with trade partners. The meeting ended on the emphasis that animal welfare is a principal EU value enshrined in Art. 13 of the TFEU, and a topic closely followed by European citizens as reflected in Eurobarometer 422. The chair concluded the discussion stressing the need to further pursue this discussion within the Intergroup and elsewhere.



For press inquiries please contact: Jan Walter – Project Leader, Trade & Animal Welfare, Eurogroup for Animals


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