18 November 1999
‘WTO a threat to animal welfare’

By Donald MacPhail

ANIMAL welfare groups are calling for changes in free trade rules to allow countries to ban products produced in a cruel or inhumane way.

Compassion in World Farming and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals say British moves to improve animal welfare are thwarted by World Trade Organisation rules.

They believe WTO rules should take into account the welfare regime under which animals are reared, instead of regarding all finished products as equal.

Currently producers introducing high welfare standards often find themselves undercut by cheaper products reared in less welfare-friendly conditions.

The WTO meets for a summit later this month in Seattle and CIWF wants the European Union to refuse any deal which does not safeguard high animal welfare standards.

CIWF is taking its protest to the department of trade and industry in London today.

Peter Stevenson of CIWF said: “I hope the EU will refuse to sign up to package of reform unless includes measures to allow EU to maintain and accrue its farm welfare standards.”

David Bowles, head of the RSPCAs international department said: “The current system is wrong because it puts high-welfare producers in Europe at risk from cheap, cruelly-produced goods from outside.”

British pig industry leaders say increased welfare costs since the introduction of the stall-and-tether ban on 1 January have made them uncompetitive, and contributed to the current crisis in the industry.

A recent National Pig Association report claims since the stall-and-tether ban was introduced pigmeat imports have risen by 20%.

The NPA alleges two-thirds of Dutch, half of Danish and nearly all Irish pigmeat is produced in stall-and-tether systems.

Meat and Livestock Commission strategy manager Mick Sloyan told a seminar in Perth this week that the UK national pig herd is likely to drop another 50,000 sows to 650,000.

In the 12 months up to June the UK breeding herd fell by 11.5%. Despite these cuts, prices have not risen and producers are losing £7 per pig, according to the NPA.

The industrys woes are also attributed to a worldwide glut of pigmeat a strong Pound and the knock-on effects of the BSE crisis.

Pig industry leaders are reported to be meeting government ministers today to discuss their plight.