The British Veterinary Association has called for much clearer commitments to animal welfare in international trade after the UK Government set out its response to the Trade and Agriculture Commission (TAC) report.
The Government response sets out commentary on each of the key recommendations from the TAC report.
In relation to tariff liberalisation and animal welfare standards (recommendation 8), the TAC called for zero tariffs and quotas only where equivalence to UK standards is demonstrated. The Government response refers to securing animal welfare commitments but falls short of agreeing to this important recommendation.
On animal welfare more broadly (recommendation 4) the TAC called for the UK to play a leadership role to raise worldwide standards of animal welfare.
The Government response refers to developing an approach to free trade agreements (FTAs) and wider trade policy that “reflects the particular challenges faced by developing countries in meeting international agri-food standards”. BVA is concerned that without safeguards this could open up the UK to lower welfare imports.
The UK Government has also announced the membership of the new TAC, chaired by Lorand Bartels, Professor of International Law. The new TAC will have a formal role to inform parliamentarians and the public on whether and how new FTAs are consistent with UK laws on animal welfare, animal and plant health, and the environment.
James Russell, BVA’s senior vice president, said: “BVA fully supported the Trade and Agriculture Commission’s recommendations and had expressed concern at the delayed response from the Government while free trade negotiations were in full swing.
“The Government rightly states that the UK’s high animal welfare and environmental standards are a red line in trade deals but we’re concerned that this response falls short of setting out the mechanisms for meeting that goal.”
Mr Russell added: “We welcome the announcement of the new Commission, including members from the veterinary profession, and look forward to ongoing engagement.
“But to give UK trade objectives more teeth we want to see much clearer commitments to animal welfare and detail of how UK standards will be safeguarded.”