ANALYSIS - Animal welfare issues could become a new trade barrier following a landmark ruling by the World Trade Organisation, writes Chris Harris from the World Meat Congress in Beijing.
Speaking at the International Meat Secretariat Veal Committee meeting running up to the full congress at the week end, Jacques Servière, senior scientist at INRA and IMS Scientific Advisor said that there is a growing public awareness of animal welfare issues in the production of meat.
He said there were numerous books being written by animal welfare campaigners and vegetarian movement supporters campaigning against farmed livestock and meat production.
“There is a huge wave going through countries. A large number of people are beginning to be interested in animal welfare,” Mr Servière said.
“Animal welfare should now be regarded as a new moral trade barrier.”
He added that the movement to bring animal welfare into trade issues took on a new meaning when recently the World Trade Organisation’s Disputes Panel ruled on a row between the EU and Norway and Canada over the use of seal products.
The argument was won by the European Union that means that a country can now refuse to import products from seals because of the treatment of animals.
He said that this has now created a precedent that might not mean that the trade in some meat products will be challenged yet but could be in the future.
“It is likely to become a barrier in the future,” Mr Servière said.
He added that there is more media noise and political turmoil over the issue in some countries than others, but the meat and livestock sectors have to make sure that welfare is now one of the issues that is heard and understood by consumers.
He said that the animal “welfarists” are now moving their attention from pure animal protection and welfare issues to man-animal relations and animal rights issues, with some governments now also taking steps to embrace these animal welfare concerns.
And he added that arguments are now being developed by the “anti-specieists” and pro-vegetarians, who are focused on environmental issues.