The RSPCA and its sister charity - RSPCA Australia - have joined forces to warn Brits about the country’s low animal welfare standards.
As many expect a deal to be signed ahead of the G7 summit this week, chief executive of the Australian charity, Richard Mussell said that standards in Australia ‘fall below’ those in England and were ‘basic at best’. Shockingly, he said the country still uses methods long outlawed in England and that the standards set in the country are rarely audited and are not mandatory.
New Defra figures reveal that over 26 million livestock animals are based in the West Midlands region - including 677,000 cattle (including 80,000 beef herd cattle) and almost 2.4 million sheep, with the RSPCA particularly concerned about the import of beef and lamb products. A zero-tariff deal with Australia could mean the higher welfare standards of animals farmed in the region and farmers’ livelihoods could be undermined - as it risks sending a signal we are willing to accept cheaper, lower welfare imports from across the globe.
RSPCA Australia CEO Richard said: “Unfortunately, animal welfare standards in Australia are basic at best. In 2021, we still do not have Australia-wide laws that ban the use of sow stalls in pig production, barren battery cages in egg production or require pain relief for very painful procedures like dehorning of calves and mulesing of lambs.
“Standards are rarely audited and, unless implemented into law, which few are, they are only voluntary. The lack of national leadership on animal welfare in Australia needs to be addressed urgently if the lives of farm animals are going to be significantly improved.”
RSPCA chief executive Chris Sherwood said: "The West Midlands has a proud farm animal welfare record - with thousands of farms rearing millions of livestock to higher legal English standards, and many going above and beyond that.
"But we fear this is all set to be undermined by the signing of a quick trade deal with Australia, which could open the doors in the West Midlands to low welfare imports that undermine our high domestic standards - with beef and lamb a particular concern to us, given Australia's far lower standards. People across the West Midlands will be alarmed to know that local supermarket shelves could soon be stocked with agricultural produce reared to lower standards - including mutilations to sheep and growth hormone treatment for beef.
"This could lead to a lopsided and unlevel playing field for the agricultural community in the West Midlands, and clearly puts farms and hard-won welfare standards at risk." UK Ministers are being urged to ensure tariff or non-tariff safeguards are included in any FTA with Australia - so only products produced to higher animal welfare standards enter the UK.
Australian farming involves a number of practices which are outlawed in the UK.