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The RSPCA in Australia has welcomed the history-making inclusion of animal welfare in the agreement in principle for the UK-Australia Free Trade Agreement.

Animal welfare will have its own chapter in the agreement, according to details released by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade this week. 

“This is the first time in history that animal welfare will be recognised in an Australian trade agreement,” said RSPCA Australia CEO Richard Mussell.

“There are a number of positive animal welfare commitments in the in-principle agreement, such as combatting antimicrobial resistance and setting up an intergovernment working group to promote animal welfare.

“But, there’s a lot more that can and should be done, such as recognising sentience – which is crucial to helping identify the needs of animals and assessing their welfare.

“So while we congratulate the Australian Government on their attention to animal welfare in these negotiations, we urge them to secure a stronger commitment before signing the final deal.”

Mr Mussell said that while the inclusion of animal welfare in the draft agreement was good news, the trade negotiations more broadly have shone a spotlight on Australia’s comparatively low animal welfare standards.

“Battery cages, sow stalls, hot iron branding for cattle, mulesing of sheep, live export and long distance transportation times, and the lack of mandatory CCTV in abattoirs have all been highlighted as examples of where Australian standards fall below those operating in the UK.

“Australia should be leading the world in farm animal welfare standards, but the reality is we have fallen significantly behind the pace in recent years.

“While it is pleasing to see animal welfare recognised at the international level, it is clearer than ever before that the Australian Government must do more to improve our standards at home.”

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