Monday, August 15, 2022

Australia’s trade agreement analysis warns of unfair competition due to ‘outdated, cruel and unsustainable farming practices’

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Cattle at an outdoor station. Photo by Kate B Dixon is tagged with CC BY 2.0.

A new report on the trade agreement reached between the UK and Australia last year says it will increase British farmers’ exposure to “unfair competition with outdated, cruel and unsustainable farming practices from which the UK has already moved away”.

The analysis by groups including WWF, Compassion in World Farming, Greener UK, RSPCA, Sustain and Which? also warns the agreement does not contain any precautionary measures for environmental protection and animal welfare, weakens existing food safety precautions and allows Australian farmers to flood the market with inferior products, including beef and lamb. .

Farming unions have expressed concern over the agreement reached last summer and Australian farmers were granted no tariff and no quota access to the UK market.

Australia's trade agreement analysis warns of unfair competition due to 'outdated, cruel and unsustainable farming practices'

Welsh-speaking heartland

It is feared that increased imports of Australian lamb and beef will hit rural areas such as Welsh hill farms the hardest, affecting Welsh-speaking heartlands, but the UK government has rejected calls for the Department of International Trade to publish a Wales-specific risk assessment the transaction.

The Farming Union of Wales has said the short-term trade deal is unlikely to lead to a competitive disadvantage for Wales as Australia has more lucrative markets “closer to home”, but FUW’s head of policy, Dr. Nick Fenwick, told the Welsh Business Committee in November that the deal could have serious impacts for Welsh farmers under certain future trading conditions.

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Mr Fenwick said: “If there are no precautions in place, the damage to our farming industry from these and other similar trade transactions will be enormous and unstoppable.”

Animal welfare

Australian animal welfare standards are lower than in the UK and there are no federal Australian laws on animal welfare.

Hot branding is legal in all Australian states and ‘mulesing’, cutting low skin around the lamb’s buttocks to prevent moth infection, is also legal, and is regularly administered without anesthesia.

Australian regulations also allow long-haul transport times of up to 48 hours, without food or water, compared to 29 hours in the UK.

Serious concerns

Chris Sherwood, chief executive of the RSPCA, told the Independent: “We have serious concerns about a free trade agreement with Australia and the impact it could have on animal welfare, British farmers’ livelihoods, and our progress in tackling climate change.

“This sets a worrying precedent now that we are entering into transactions with other countries, all of which have lower animal welfare standards than we have here. It could mean that products are imported and end up on our shelves that are produced according to illegal standards in the UK. ”

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“The government has recently undertaken to improve the lives of farm animals by rewarding farming financially to higher welfare standards, but all this can be undermined by this agreement and future agreements with other countries. There is a real risk that our standards will be sold out for the sake of fast trading transactions. We call on the government to protect our standards and maintain our status as world leaders in animal welfare. ”

The British government has said that the trade agreement will provide further protection against lamb and beef farmers, such as a general bilateral protection mechanism, which provides a safety net for the industry if imports threaten their business.


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Australia's trade agreement analysis warns of unfair competition due to 'outdated, cruel and unsustainable farming practices'

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