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The RSPCA has called on Australian and European Union (EU) political leaders to ensure pending trade arrangements result in better animal welfare standards.

As the Free Trade Agreement between the two is nearing completion, the RSPCA has reiterated its call for equivalency provisions to support improvements in animal welfare standards.

RSPCA Australia CEO Richard Mussell said that Australia’s leading animal welfare organisation supported initial wording in the AU-EU FTA for the need to recognise animal sentience and acknowledge animal welfare as a critical component of sustainable food production systems, but said those conditions alone would not go far enough.

“It’s time to raise the bar on animal welfare standards in Australia,” said Mr Mussell. “And the Australia-EU free trade agreement is a perfect opportunity to help do this.”

“The FTA provides an exciting and crucial opportunity to, not just improve market access for producers, but to establish clear priorities for cooperation provisions on animal welfare and accelerate improvements by aligning animal welfare standards based on the stronger standard, as assessed on accepted animal welfare criteria.”

“Animals are not inanimate commodities. Their welfare must be considered and protected in trade agreements like this.

“Practices that result in poor animal welfare face increasing community scrutiny, both here and overseas. Extreme confinement systems, invasive husbandry procedures and practices that expose animals to significant risk and poor welfare are neither sustainable nor publicly acceptable.

“Similarly, keeping layer hens confined to barren battery cages is not permitted in the EU, while domestically, not all states and territories have committed to the phase out of battery cages by 2036, as per Australia’s new Poultry Standards and Guidelines.”

“We call on Australian and European representatives to address the matter of equivalency provisions in the final version of the agreement, to safeguard animal welfare, respond to growing global concern, and take this opportunity to promote the implementation of high animal welfare standards.”

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