June 18, 2021

The recent announcement of a trade deal between Australia and the UK has raised concerns over the lack of a level playing field when it comes to environmental and animal welfare standards.

British farmers fear they could lose market share to meat produced in Australia, which they say isn’t subject to the same strict rules on animal welfare and environmental protection.

In a statement, Minette Batters, the president of the UK’s National Farmers Union, said the deal included “a reasonable time period to allow UK farmers to adjust to the new trading environment”.

However, she added that it was unclear if safeguards were adequate in the event of imports from Australia, which is a major lamb and beef exporter, rising to “unmanageable levels”.

“I am concerned that [the] announcement appears to have made no mention of animal welfare and environmental standards,” she said.

“While the government has previously been keen to highlight how our free trade agreements will uphold our high standards of food production, there has always been a question mark over how this can be achieved while opening up our markets to food produced to different standards.”

Writing for Britain’s Independent, Tanya Steele, the chief executive of the environmental organisation WWF UK, said Australia’s farming system was “fuelling the climate and nature crisis”.

She added that the deal may set a precedent for similar agreements with other countries, such as Canada and the United States, with farming systems that, like Australia’s, are highly intensive.

“The environmental standards of some foods produced in Australia are so far below the standards upheld by UK farmers that these products shouldn’t be sold in the UK at all, let alone given open access to UK markets with a zero tariff, zero quota trade deal,” she wrote.

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