RSPCA – Written Evidence (NZT0001)



New Zealand is the only country with whom the UK is negotiating an FTA where there is broad equivalence on animal welfare standards.  In some areas New Zealand’s farm standards are above the UK’s.  This gives a real opportunity for a groundbreaking model approach to animal welfare in an FTA.  Included in this should be a stand alone chapter on animal welfare outside the SPS chapter, agreeing language on sentience and the broad approach to improving animal welfare.  This should include cooperating in the OIE on animal welfare guidelines and working within the WTO on a shared vision for animal welfare in the trade arena.  There then should be agreement on those sectors where equivalence can be demonstrated.  In some areas, such as sheep production, there needs agreement on how to divide existing TRQs that the EU holds but using historical data this could easily be achieved.  The UK Government has a clear manifesto commitment not to reduce standards in free trade agreements.  The New Zealand FTA is the clearest example where it can show leadership to advance animal welfare not only in the FTA but also give a wider vision for its progress on a global scale.


Given that farm animal welfare and animal health policy and law is a devolved matter, references to UK standards refer to the current high standards in this area of each of the UK's four constituent nations.



  1. The RSPCA welcomes the opportunity to set out the implications for animal welfare as the Government negotiates a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with New Zealand. The RSPCA has been working on trade issues for 25 years, attending seven World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ministerial meetings and advising the European Commission on six FTAs that the EU has or is negotiating that include animal welfare elements (Chile, South Korea, Canada, Japan, Mercosur and Mexico).  The RSPCA also sets the standards for the UK’s only higher welfare farm assurance and food labelling scheme, RSPCA Assured, which has over 3,000 members and assures over half the UK’s laying hens and a fifth of its pigs.  As any trade negotiation will impact on the UK’s animal welfare standards, the RSPCA has a public policy and commercial role on this issue.
  2. The UK Government has stated it will maintain and, where possible, improve standards of animal welfare in the UK[1], particularly as new FTAs are negotiated[2]. The Department of Trade has confirmed that it would not lower food, animal welfare or environmental standards after the UK left the EU and that when undertaking trade deals any imported product would have to meet UK standards[3] but the Government has failed to accept any amendments to the Agriculture or Trade Bills that would encapsulate this in legislation.  The defence that such standards are already in UK legislation is correct but these standards can be changed by Statutory Instrument without proper Parliamentary scrutiny.  Indeed it is possible these standards could be changed by the Food Standards Agency, who the Department for International Trade has indicated are in charge of ensuring no imports enter the UK unless they are produced to our animal welfare standards and who are also responsible for ensuring our animal health standards are based on best scientific evidence[4].


How reliable do you find the DIT’s assessment of the potential impacts of the proposed agreement with New Zealand?


  1. The RSPCA supports an FTA with New Zealand that maintains the basic principles that UK animal welfare standards will not be lowered and that the UK can be a leading advocate for its animal welfare standards on the global stage.  The opportunity with the FTA with New Zealand is high.  New Zealand is the only country with whom the UK is undertaking an FTA whose farm standards have been judged higher than the UK, being given a “C” as opposed to the UK’s “D” rating by World Animal Protection[5].   New Zealand is also a country that places animal welfare at the centre of their trade negotiations.  With this shared understanding of the importance of animal welfare and the consistency of animal welfare standards, the UK could negotiate a model FTA with New Zealand that puts animal welfare not only centre stage in an FTA but also highlights its importance at a global level.  This would show clear indication of its importance to the UK and that animal welfare is an issue that needs to be in any trade discussion.
  2. This can be done by a number of measures in the FTA.  Firstly, agreeing an animal welfare stand alone chapter outside of the SPS chapter.  This Chapter should set out a shared understanding of animal sentience, a shared goal of implementing and enforcing the OIE guidelines on animal welfare and using this gateway approach, set out those areas where equivalency is achieved in standards. In some areas, New Zealand standards may be higher.  For instance, New Zealand prohibits the non-stun slaughter of animals for export and for internal consumption, whereas the UK allows it for both.  On others, for beef and dairy cattle for instance, the UK and New Zealand both have Codes of Practice but have yet to agree species specific standards in legislation that implement the OIE guidelines. In other areas, species specific legislation on laying hens, chickens and pigs have broadly the same input standards on animal welfare in areas such as minimum space requirements and types of production systems allowed.  Precedents exist for this. The draft EU-Mexico FTA includes a chapter on animal welfare which prescribes cooperative measures to improve the implementation of the OIE standards while also allowing each Party to establish the level of protection they determine to be appropriate.  The draft UK-EU FTA also includes an animal welfare chapter.  The UK should ensure that there is an animal welfare chapter in the New Zealand FTA.
  3. While there may be equivalence on animal welfare standards there are differences on animal health ones. Whilst bovine somatotropin(BST) is banned in the New Zealand dairy industry, New Zealand does allow the use of growth promoting hormones in its beef industry. Although it is only used in around 1% of the national herd[6],  New Zealand did join with the USA in challenging the EU’s beef-hormone ban in 1998.  Growth promotants such as these are problematic for animal welfare, because they stress the animals’ metabolism – diverting resources into growth rather than maintenance, increasing hunger and vulnerability to suboptimal management – and because some of these drugs are used as an easy alternative to good husbandry, suppressing disease but allowing other poor practices such as overcrowding[7]
  4. Equivalence language could be adopted in the FTA to only trade in those products where there are shared animal welfare goals and standards’ equivalence.  There are some 15,000 farm tariff lines that will have to be individually negotiated highlighting the care that needs to be undertaken when negotiating new tariffs or Tariff Rate Quotas under an FTA.
  5. The second area where there may be pressure to relax standards in an FTA is on the use of animal tests relating to product safety assessments.  The UK inherits eight pieces of legislation from the EU that cover this area.  Some of these set higher restrictions on animal use than are found in other countries with whom the UK will want to agree to an FTA.  These include the ban on the use of animals in cosmetics ingredients and product tests, which includes an import ban as well as an internal ban, and equivalence on approval of chemicals coming on to the market under REACH.  The cosmetics marketing ban has not been challenged at the WTO since it came into force five years ago but some countries that the UK wishes to agree a FTA with have stated in the past that they wish to challenge this measure.  The chemical industry is the second most important manufacturing industry in the UK.  Should the UK not agree equivalence with the EU on standards for chemicals under REACH there is the strong possibility that this will lead to more animal testing before products come to market[8].  The use of animals to test cosmetics was banned in NZ in 2015[9] so giving equivalency in standards with New Zealand.

What are some points of disagreement that have emerged in New Zealand’s recent trade negotiations that the Committee should bear in mind when scrutinising UK-New Zealand negotiations?

  1. New Zealand is an important export market to the UK, particularly in the sheep sector where it supplies 74% of UK sheep imports, amounting to a quarter of the sheep meat consumed in the UK[10]. These imports all come in under a Tariff Rate Quota (TRQ) agreed when the UK joined the EU.  The EU and UK have notified the WTO that they will split these TRQs based on historical trade levels but New Zealand has objected to this process on its sheepmeat TRQ.  To date there has been no progress in the negotiations between the EU and New Zealand on how to divide up this TRQ.  There could be progress by looking at historical trade flows and base the TRQ division on, for example, data from the past ten years.  So, if New Zealand exported 70% of its TRQ over the past ten years to the UK it seems sensible that the UK offers New Zealand a TRQ based on this value or weight.  The EU has some 128 different TRQs all of which will have to undergo the same process.


How might the UK agriculture and food industries approach any new competition that might arise from a trade deal with New Zealand?

  1. UK agriculture should welcome any competition where imports are based on equivalence.  The UK has agreed that it will introduce mandatory method of production labelling under the Agriculture Bill and if this is applied to imported products (cosmetics labelling being an important model) this will give clear information to consumers on the production method of the product.


10 August 2020



[3] Rt Hon Greg Hands MP Minister of State for Trade Policy Efra 20.7.20

[4] Rt Hon Liz Truss Sos DiT.18.6.20 PQ 903430



[7] EFSA. 2007. Opinion related to hormone residues in bovine meat and meat products.

[8] Therese coffey Parliamentary Under Secretary Defra. 27.6.18


[10] AHDB. 2016 Horizon: what might Brexit mean for UK trade in agricultural products?