Last reviewed 4 August 2022

Independent think tank ResPublica has published a report highlighting what it sees as a number of flaws in the UK’s recent trade deals with Australia and New Zealand, arguing that they open the door to food produced to lower standards of animal welfare.

UK Trade Policy & Animal Welfare, available at https://www.respublica.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/UK-Trade-Policy-Animal-Welfare.pdf, notes that the UK could be a global leader in best practice in animal welfare in the agri-food sector, helping to drive up standards around the world via its trade policies.

“However,” it goes on, “in the new trade deals signed to-date, a concerning precedent has been set which could see British farm produce undercut by imports from countries with lower animal welfare standards.”

Responding to the report, the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) agrees that there are no enforceable safeguards in the agreements with Australia and New Zealand that can prevent meat produced to lower standards potentially flooding the UK market and undercutting its farmers.

ResPublica offers a number of recommendations including that trade liberalisation in the form of tariff and quota reductions should be linked to meeting environmental and animal welfare standards in production.

Additionally, on the most important issues, the UK should seek to control imports, not only on the grounds of the safety of the final product, but also on the basis of how it has been produced.

In order to achieve this, the report argues, the UK should adopt — in collaboration with appropriate industry and civil society partners — a set of core production standards in the agri-food industry that will apply to any future trade deals and import policy more broadly.