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NZ-EU Free Trade Agreement Could Undermine Animal Welfare

New Zealand's free trade agreement with the European Union officially entered into force on 1 May 2024. In particular this will have impacts for New Zealand's trade and animal welfare standards as whilst the FTA contains a chapter on animal welfare cooperation, it remains aspirational, broad and non-binding. 


The EU is New Zealand's third largest trading partner. According to an EU impact assessment, EU trade in goods to New Zealand could increase by 47% once the FTA is implemented.


Compared to other regions, the EU's and New Zealand’s animal welfare standards for farmed animals are generally higher, but there are still some differences between the two - in particular when it comes to pigs. New Zealand banned sow stalls for pigs in 2016 due to public opposition. As highlighted in Animal Policy International’s report, almost two-thirds of pork consumed in New Zealand originates from overseas, primarily from some European nations (Spain, Germany, Poland), Canada, and the United States - countries that currently still permit sow stalls. 


The EU-NZ free trade agreement liberalised EU pork imports into New Zealand immediately upon commencement. If pork imports do increase, this could further undermine New Zealand's efforts to prevent the use of sow stalls and restrict consumers' ability to choose higher welfare options.


However, the situation may change in the near future as the EU undertakes a review of its animal welfare regulations. There are indications the EU may phase out and prohibit cage systems for all farmed animals. The European Parliament has also called to apply any new rules to imported products.


“The commencement of this FTA only serves to underscore the potential impact of low welfare imports on animals and local farmers. We urge regions with higher welfare to prohibit imports of products produced to standards lower than their own. If we fail to legislate import restrictions, it simply undermines progress that has been made domestically.” says API’s Co-Executive Director Mandy Carter.


piglet that could be impacted by NZ-EU Free Trade Agreement

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