Australia trade deal analysis warns of unfair competition due to ‘outdated, cruel, and unsustainable farming practices’
A new report into the trade deal agreed between the UK and Australia last years, says it will will increase UK farmers’ exposure to “unfair competition with outdated, cruel, and unsustainable farming practices the UK has already moved away from”.
The analysis by groups including WWF, Compassion in World Farming, Greener UK, RSPCA, Sustain and Which? also warns the deal contains no safeguards for environmental protections and animal welfare, weakens existing safeguards on food safety and allows Australian farmers to flood the market with inferior products including beef and lamb. .
Farming unions have raised concerns about the deal which was agreed last summer and granted Australian farmers zero-tariff and zero-quota access to the UK market.
Welsh speaking heartlands
It is feared that increased imports of Australian lamb and beef will hit rural areas such as Welsh hill farms the hardest, and impact Welsh speaking heartlands, however, the UK Government has rejected calls for the Department for International Trade to publish a Wales-specific risk assessment of the deal.
The Farming Union of Wales said that in the short-term the trade deal is unlikely to result in a competitive disadvantage for Wales, because Australia has more profitable markets “closer to home” but FUW Head of Policy Dr Nick Fenwick told the Welsh Affairs Committee in November that under certain future trading conditions the deal could have severe impacts for Welsh farmers.
Mr Fenwick said: “If there are no safeguards in place the damage to our farming industry of this and other similar trade deals would be immense and unstoppable”.
Australian animal welfare standards are lower than in the UK and there are no federal Australian laws on farm animal welfare.
Hot branding is legal in all Australian states and ‘mulesing’, cutting layers of skin around the lamb’s buttocks to prevent infestation by blowflies, is also legal, and routinely administered without anaesthetic.
Australian regulations also permit long-distance transport times of up to 48 hours, without food or water, compared to 29 hours in the UK.
Chris Sherwood, chief executive at the RSPCA, told the Independent: “We have serious concerns about a free trade deal with Australia and the impact this could have on animal welfare, UK farmers’ livelihoods, and our strides in tackling climate change.
“This sets a concerning precedent now that we are embarking on deals with other countries, all of whom have lower animal welfare standards than we do here. This could mean products being imported and ending up on our shelves which have been produced under what would be illegal standards in the UK.”
“The government recently pledged to improve the lives of farm animals by financially rewarding farming to higher welfare standards, but all of this could be undermined by this deal and future agreements with other countries. There is a real risk that our standards are being sold out for the sake of quick trade deals. We urge the government to protect our standards and maintain our status as global leaders on animal welfare.”
The UK Government has said that under the trade deal, further protections will be provided from lamb and beef farmers, such as a general bilateral safeguard mechanism, which offers a safety net for industry should imports threaten their business.
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