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EU-Chile trade agreement falls short on animal welfare

EU Observer | 1 March 2024

EU-Chile trade agreement falls short on animal welfare

By Eurogroup For Animals

The modernised EU-Chile Free Trade Agreement, approved by the European Parliament this week, includes commitments to animal welfare such as the recognition of animal sentience, the phase-out of antibiotics used as growth promoters, and language on animal welfare cooperation.

While these provisions are welcomed, the negative impacts of unconditional trade liberalisation should not be ignored: The EU and Chile should maximise the language on animal welfare cooperation within the agreement to ensure significant progress for the well-being of animals.

In 2002, when the EU and Chile concluded their first trade agreement, they added, for the first time ever, provisions on animal welfare cooperation. Yet, it was followed by increased intensification in the Chilean livestock and aquaculture sectors due to increased trade opportunities. There is a high risk that this modernised deal will fuel this trend as it grants further market access for Chilean animal products by increasing quotas for poultry, pork, sheep and beef without any animal welfare condition. Such a condition could have contributed to enhancing animal welfare standards in Chile, especially considering that Chilean producers believe that the trade deal would generate greater certainty for investments aimed at exports to the EU.

The FTA does include a chapter on sustainable food systems with provisions on animal welfare cooperation, despite being non-commital. Future EU-Chile cooperation on animal welfare, as like-minded partners, must focus on concrete initiatives such as the phase-out of cages for pigs and poultry, along with lower stocking densities for poultry. Other areas include animal transport, the use of anaesthesia for mutilations and joint action plans to phase out antibiotic use in animal production.

It is disappointing that the new EU approach to Trade and Sustainable Development (TSD) chapters will not yet apply to this trade agreement. The review process of the TSD Chapter should contain detailed language on the link between animal welfare and sustainable development, wildlife conservation and trafficking, and the importance of ensuring welfare in aquaculture. In terms of enforcement, the EU and Chile should create clear roadmaps, identify priority issues, and include last-resort sanctions.

In November 2021, Chilean President Gabriel Boric signed an Animalist Commitment with Veg Foundation during his campaign. The document includes 10 points to improve the lives of animals raised for consumption.

“Unfortunately after two years of government, very little progress has been made in fulfilling this commitment, since only one of the 10 points has been worked on. We call on President Boric to keep his word and improve the lives of millions of animals in Chile, by implementing these points in both trade agreements and national law. This FTA could have bolstered national efforts similar to the impact of the first EU-Chile trade agreement, which led to the adoption of Chilean animal welfare law in 2009", commented Ignacia Uribe, Founder and CEO, Veg Foundation.

“Until the EU has animal welfare-based import requirements, the EU should negotiate ambitious animal welfare conditions with all trading partners, and replicate the approach it followed in the EU-New Zealand trade agreement. The EU should not let its trade agenda freeze the path toward higher welfare food systems. Embracing animal welfare conditions in some FTAs while omitting them in others would certainly be incoherent”, commented Reineke Hameleers, CEO, Eurogroup for Animals.

Eurogroup for Animals and the Chilean-based organisation Veg Foundation regret that the modernisation of this trade agreement fails to guarantee that EU-Chile trade does not have a detrimental impact on animals, and encourage the effective transition towards sustainable food systems in which animals’ well-being is promoted and respected.

 source: EU Observer