A panel of UK trade experts consulted animal rights campaigners in Australia ahead of the recent signing of a free trade deal.
The group of scientists was brought together by the government after UK farmers raised concerns about a flood of imports from Australia ‘stealing’ local markets.
The UK has been investigating complaints about the different agricultural standards used in Australia to produce meat, fiber and grains more cheaply than local produce.
In particular, British farmers pointed to different animal welfare standards that were accepted practices in Australia, such as the mulesing of sheep, the branding of cattle and even certain chemicals used on crops.
The Australian government was accused in February of rushing the ratification of Britain’s free trade deal which critics say could lead to potential unintended consequences.
This independent UK panel produced a report released last week titled TTrade and Agriculture Committee: Advice to the Secretary of State for International Trade on the UK-Australia Free Trade Agreement.
In the report, it was revealed that the expert group had consulted many people in Australia on local farming practices.
One was former RSPCA policy officer Dr Jed Goodfellow, who helped form a breakaway animal rights group called the Australian Alliance for Animals.
The panel also consulted Dr. Bidda Jones, the former scientific director of the RSCPA, who is also part of the new alliance.
The UK’s National Farmers Union has previously criticized the deal with Australia, saying its government “missed an opportunity” to strike a world-class free trade deal with Australia.
Farmers have frequently raised concerns about Australian food imports which they say are produced to lower environmental and animal welfare standards.
Although the TAC report confirms that the FTA will not lead to a change in UK production standards, it details that the market will open up to Australian products whether or not they are produced to the same standards.
The report states: “The FTA is likely to lead to increased imports of products that have been cheaply produced using pesticides in Australia that would not be permitted in the UK.
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NFU President Minette Batters called on her government to work with farmers to ‘develop a set of core environmental and animal welfare standards that it can seek to protect through future agreements. of free trade”.
The trade panel responded to concerns about Australian farming practices from UK farmers and people it consulted.
Are Australian cattle branded in a way that is not permitted in the UK?
The branding of farm animals is banned in the UK while there are animal welfare guidelines governing hot branding in Australia where ear tags are more widely used. The panel said the trade deal ‘does not restrict’ the UK’s rights to ban imports of products from Australia made using the practice of hot stamping.
Do Australian cattle and sheep spend more time in transport and have less space than in the UK?
The panel concluded that there was low risk meat from stock which has traveled much longer than would be allowed in the UK and which will be imported into the UK in increased quantities under the the.
Mulesing sheep without pain relief, a practice banned in the UK, does it exist in Australia?
Yes. This is a practice (with or without pain relief) banned in the UK but allowed in Australia. Imports of wool from mule sheep are much more likely than from mutton or lamb.
The panel said the trade deal ‘does not curtail’ the UK’s rights to ban imports of products from Australia made using the practice of mulesing without pain relief ‘and may even reinforce those rights. rights”.
Other topics explored by the panel included stunning and the provision of CCTV in Australian slaughterhouses, the operation of Australian feedlots and other pain relief uses in Australian agriculture.
Concerns have also been raised about Australian agricultural production being more emissions intensive than that of the UK.
There were also questions about the continued deforestation of farmland in Australia
The panel said Australia has reforested rather than deforested, but “it cannot be ruled out that in some cases deforested land will be used to produce agricultural products which will be imported in greater quantities into the UK, such as beef and grain”.
The UK government has said the free trade deal with Australia will unlock A$18 billion in additional trade while eliminating tariffs on all UK exports.
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