Reports Good Food Trade Campaign

Australia UK trade: Ensuring high animal welfare standards in future trade deals trade deal

Sustain and Compassion in World Farming are concerned that the UK government is on a path to break its own manifesto commitment to protect the UK’s food safety, animal welfare and environmental standards from future trade deals.


We are concerned the Government might inadvertently support low standard, low animal welfare farm systems around the globe through the trade deals it negotiates now that it has left the European Union. This might include things such as the abuse of medically-critical antibiotics to prop up poor farming practices, chemical washes to mask low standards of hygiene and animal welfare, or cruelty to animals.
Our concerns about animal welfare span all future trade deals however, in this briefing, we have chosen to focus on differences between the UK and Australian farm systems. There are a number of farming practices that are banned in the UK that are still permitted in Australia such as the use of battery cages for laying hens and restrictive sow stalls. Yet, the UK is set to sign an agreement in principle with Australia in June 2021 and spend six months on legal due diligence - all of which will take place with scant parliamentary scrutiny of the deal.

Policy interventions we are calling for:

  • The UK negotiating objectives for all trade agreements to clearly state that not only will the UK not lower its own food, farming, environmental and animal welfare standards, but it will only permit imports of goods produced to standards that are as high as, or higher, than UK’s domestic standards.
  • The UK should not conclude any new trade agreement that compels it to allow the import of products produced to standards of animal welfare, food safety or environmental protection that are lower than those required by UK law.
  • The UK to ensure that any trade agreement with any other country must include effective guarantees that safeguard the UK’s capacity to continue to enhance the welfare of farm animals.
  • The Government to defend these actions, if challenged at the WTO, under Article XX of the GATT, which allows countries to protect ‘public morals’ where it represents a legitimate public policy consideration, enabling a country to justify such a measure in certain circumstances.
  • Such a commitment needs to be reflected in law, following our exit from the EU, giving a solid mandate and strength to the UK’s trade negotiators.
  • Parliament must have a proper involvement in agreeing the terms of new trade agreements. This includes setting the mandate, regularly scrutinising negotiations as they progress and the right to consent to, amend or reject a trade agreement.
  • Concluded agreements should not be presented to Parliament as a fait accompli leaving Parliament in the position of simply being able to accept or reject the agreement as a whole. Parliament must have the power to be properly engaged in shaping the terms of the agreement.

For a policy briefing on the Australia trade deal that covers pesticides, antibiotics, climate and health, please click here.

Australia UK trade: Ensuring high animal welfare standards in future trade deals trade deal
2021 | 163Kb


Published Monday 14 June 2021

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