Documents considered by the Committee on 18 April 2018 Contents

4Animal welfare and international competitiveness

Committee’s assessment

Politically important

Committee’s decision

Not cleared from scrutiny; further information requested; drawn to the attention of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee

Document details

Report from the Commission: On the impact of animal welfare international activities on the competitiveness of European livestock producers in a globalised world

Legal base

Department

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Document Number

(39483), 5787/18 + ADD 1, COM(18) 42

Summary and Committee’s conclusions

4.1The EU has comparatively high animal welfare standards. As most EU animal welfare standards apply only to EU production and as animal welfare has not been explicitly recognised as trade-relevant under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the Commission has engaged in international efforts to communicate EU and global standards.

4.2Overall, this analysis of EU interventions internationally (over the period 2004–15) concludes that they were effective in improving awareness of European and global animal welfare standards with particular success in welfare at slaughter, although not so much progress has been achieved on welfare in transport and on farm. Pigs and laying hens are named as key farm welfare areas where EU legislation has served as inspiration to others for improvements to animal welfare in production systems. Further details are set out below.

4.3The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Rural Affairs and Biosecurity (Lord Gardiner) says that the UK has been closely involved in the Report. He notes that, as part of the planning for the UK’s departure from the EU, the UK will need to consider how the collaborative work of UK experts and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) may be affected. The UK will also need to consider collaborative frameworks with the EU or alternative initiatives to promote international animal welfare. He concludes that the information contained in this Report is useful background for planning for the UK’s departure from the EU, particularly in relation to animal welfare and trade, as well as any future UK strategies to encourage improvements in international animal welfare.

4.4There has been parliamentary interest in the question of the UK’s approach to animal welfare post-Brexit, taking into account the UK’s intention to boost trade with countries beyond the EU. The Secretary of State for the Environment and Rural Affairs (Michael Gove) told the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee that there would be no compromise on animal welfare standards in order to secure trade agreements.83

4.5In a joint evidence session between the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee and our predecessors on 8 March 2017,84 the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (George Eustice) noted that the World Trade Organisation had shown some flexibility in acknowledging the legitimacy of restricting trade on the basis of animal welfare. He pointed to a test case around banning the trade in seal furs that was held as legitimate under WTO rules using public morals or ethics as an argument.85

4.6We note the Minister’s generally positive approach to the work undertaken by the Commission in this area and his view that, post-Brexit, the UK will need to consider similar initiatives to promote international animal welfare. We would welcome the Minister’s assessment of what has worked well and what has worked less well and therefore how a post-Brexit UK strategy in this area might take a different approach.

4.7The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, noted in March 2017 that the World Trade Organisation appears to be showing flexibility in terms of the possibility to restrict imports on the basis of animal welfare standards. We would welcome any information from the Government on any progress it has made since that evidence in advocating greater flexibility to make imports conditional on compliance with animal welfare standards.

4.8Given the interest shown in this matter by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, we draw this document to the attention of that Committee. We hold the document under scrutiny and look forward to a response within ten working days.

Full details of the documents

Report from the Commission: On the impact of animal welfare international activities on the competitiveness of European livestock producers in a globalised world: (39483), 5787/18 + ADD 1, COM(18) 42.

Background

4.9In 1995, the Council mandated the Commission to conduct negotiations with a view to concluding agreements with non-EU countries on sanitary and phytosanitary measures, including on animal welfare related to trade.

4.10With the exception of standards at slaughter, EU animal welfare standards apply only to EU production and not to imported products. Furthermore, when live animals are exported, only certain requirements on animal transport are applicable outside the EU territory. For other EU animal welfare standards, the Commission has limited power to influence non-EU countries. Animal welfare has not been explicitly recognised as trade relevant under the General Agreement on Tariff and Trade (GATT). Consequently, animal welfare-related provisions included in trade agreements mostly relate to cooperation and not to compliance with given requirements. The EU achievements in this area depend on the degree of willingness of non-EU countries to cooperate.

4.11Identified EU interventions include:

4.12The key instruments to increase awareness are training and technical assistance interventions under the Better Training for Safer Food (BTSF) programme and Technical Assistance and Information Exchange instrument (TAIEX), EU research programmes and targeted projects.

4.13The Report confirms that the Commission has a cooperative approach to promoting animal welfare on the international scene in place and has included animal welfare in its dialogue with many non-EU countries. Interventions have been made on three key elements: awareness raising, capacity building and funding. The Report also confirms that significant results have been achieved and notes that interventions have resulted in a “prominent and decisive role”, helping raise global awareness of animal welfare as well as facilitating the implementation of EU import requirements on animal welfare standards at slaughter.

4.14Interventions in research, training and capacity building activities have helped increase the animal welfare knowledge and skills of thousands, and have supported the implementation of animal welfare policies and standards in beneficiary countries.

4.15EU animal welfare standards are reported to have had a “lighthouse effect” and inspired voluntary industry welfare initiatives. The EU has also had direct input in promoting and supporting OIE activities, including the OIE standards-setting process and implementation, within and outside of the EU, with particular emphasis on implementation of welfare at slaughter and transport standards.

4.16Finally, the Report notes that, overall, animal welfare standards have a limited impact on the competitiveness of EU producers in world markets. Compliance costs remain low when compared to other production costs that affect global competitiveness and influence world trade patterns. The global promotion of EU standards on animal welfare contributes to the long-term objective of improving animal welfare in the world and reducing unfair trading practices. It is also an opportunity to enhance the added market value of products obtained under such standards.

Explanatory Memorandum of 22 February 201886

4.17The Minister considers that “no immediate implications” arise for the UK from this Report. The Government will wait to see how the Report’s conclusions are taken forward by the Commission, and will stand ready to discuss with the Commission and other Member States ways to further improve animal welfare globally.

4.18 The Minister notes that the Report includes as part of the reviewed documents the last UK Government Five Year Progress Report on International Animal Welfare.87 Several UK experts and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have, says the Minister, participated in a number of the training and technical assistance activities captured by this Report. He adds that the UK OIE animal welfare focal point and UK experts have contributed to the EU’s input into animal welfare standards through the EU coordination meetings and as members of the OIE chapter drafting working groups. The UK has also provided speakers for all of the OIE global animal welfare conferences to date.

4.19Regarding the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, the Minister says:

“As part of the planning for the UK’s departure from the EU, we will need to consider how UK experts and NGOs may be affected if future activities take place. The UK will also need to consider collaborative frameworks with the EU or alternative initiatives to promote international animal welfare.

“Information contained in this report is useful background for planning for the UK’s departure from the EU, particularly in relation to animal and trade, as well as any future UK strategies to encourage improvements in international animal welfare.”

Previous Committee Reports

None.


83 Third Report of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (2017–19), “Brexit: Trade in Food“, HC 348.

84 Oral evidence from the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, 8 March 2017.

85 In EC-Seal Products, the WTO Appellate Body ruled that in the EU (and therefore in the UK) animal welfare is a concern that comes within the field of public morals. WTO dispute panels and the Appellate Body have stated on several occasions that WTO member countries have the right to determine the level of protection that they consider appropriate to achieve a given policy aim for example as regards public health, conservation, prevention of deceptive practices or public morals.

86 Explanatory Memorandum submitted by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.




Published: 24 April 2018