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Ensuring animal welfare standards are upheld in international trade policy

Happy pigs

Imagine a world where every farmed animal, no matter where they are, has protection, freedom from suffering, and a life worth living.


The issue

Animal welfare standards vary significantly across the globe, with billions of farmed animals still confined in factory farms.

A growing global movement is calling for change, demanding an end to practices such as battery cages for hens, sow stalls for pigs, and mulesing performed on sheep. In response, some regions, including the EU, New Zealand, the UK, and Switzerland, have implemented higher welfare standards.

However, many people are unaware that this progress is being undermined. Successive political leaders have continued to allow the import of animal products from countries that fail to meet local standards, in some circumstances outsourcing and shifting production overseas, fuelling the suffering of animals in those countries under practices that would be illegal locally.​

Transport containers

New Zealand imports

New Zealand's animal welfare laws are more extensive than those of many other countries. However, this is undermined by importing a significant amount of products from regions with little or no animal protection standards, such as China, Thailand, the US, and Australia.



Sows in sow stalls in Canada (2022)
© Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals Media

Sow stalls: Over 90%* of pork imported into New Zealand comes from countries like Canada, United States and some European countries that allow the use of sow stalls, in which mother pigs are confined to narrow cages where they cannot perform basic behaviours, such as turn around or build nests. New Zealand banned sow stalls in 2016 after a public outcry.

Battery cages: 86%* of liquid egg imports in 2022 came from China and Australia where egg-laying hens can be kept in battery cages where there is less space than an A4 sheet of paper per bird leaving them unable to perform natural behaviour such as dust bathing and nesting. New Zealand’s ban on battery cages came into force in 2023.



Egg-laying hens in an overcrowded battery cage in India (2023)
© Shatabdi Chakrabarti / FIAPO / We Animals Media


Fish slaughter: 73%* of fish imported into New Zealand comes from Thailand, China, Australia, and Vietnam - all countries with no welfare standards around slaughter. New Zealand has a Code of Welfare (Commercial Slaughter) 2018 that concerns aquatic animals at the time of slaughter.

Mulesing: All of the wool imported to New Zealand in 2022 came from Australia where mulesing (live lamb cutting) is a widely used practice. It entails removing parts of the skin from live sheep without anaesthetic, causing severe immediate and long-term pain to lambs. In New Zealand performing mulesing can result in a criminal conviction



Source of import statistics: FAOSTAT (2021, 2022)


Animal Policy International is working with policymakers, farmers, and NGOs towards responsible imports that align with standards and expectations in higher-welfare regions, create fairer conditions for farmers, and help to promote higher animal welfare standards in low-welfare countries.

Together, we can create a world where animal protection has a meaningful impact and ensures the well-being of animals everywhere.


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