NZ and UK battle it out over farm animal welfare standards

by | Jun 7, 2022 | News

New Zealand’s high farming standards have been recognised during in the tussle with the UK to thrash out a potential Free Trade Agreement.

United Kingdom opponents to a Fair Trade Agreement have been using the animal welfare issue as a potential block, citing better standards in the UK, reports The Scottish Farmer. But when giving evidence to Westminster’s International Agreements Committee, the RSCPA stated: “New Zealand is the only country with whom the UK is negotiating a Free Trade Agreement where there is broad equivalence on animal welfare standards. In some areas, New Zealand’s farm standards are above the UK’s.”

There were some areas of similarity, such as both countries having banned mulesing in lambs and similar base line cage spaces and stocking densities for chickens. However, the RSPCA believed that ‘the gap may widen in the future as New Zealand is phasing out cages for laying hens and farrowing crates for pigs both of which are still legal in the UK.’

Non-stun slaughter is permitted in the UK but not used in Scotland.The RSCPA noted that this practice is banned in New Zealand. Live exports have also been illegal in New Zealand since 2003. The report also highlighted that 80% of New Zealand dairy cows were kept outdoors 12 months of the year, while in the UK it is only 4%.

…On a recent trip to the UK, Andrew Morrison – chair of Beef and Lamb New Zealand – told The Scottish Farmer: “We run comparable systems to the UK. We need to put to bed any thoughts of our standards as being below the UK. The RSPCA made a statement to Parliament that New Zealand was the one place that had better welfare standards than the UK and I am proud that we do.”

He said: “Our meat goes to 120 different countries. We are not going to be bringing a whole lot of product in here. Our sector is also decreasing in size, we have planted 140,000 ha of sheep and beef farms into forestry for climate change mitigation measures. There are opportunities for beef here, but we also send beef all over the world.”

Sending beef and lamb across the globe might appear to clash with the drive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But Morrison said: “Shipping lamb or beef to the UK only accounts for 1-4% of the carbon foot print. It is an insignificant part of it.

“Our efficiency drive since the 1980s has really driven down our footprint, it has dropped 30% from 1990s levels. We have very low levels of carbon emission associated with our products. We are not saying we are better than anyone else, but we want to give customers the environmental metrics and I am not saying we are better than Welsh, or Scottish farmers.”

Mr Morrison was keen to point out opportunities to collaborate. He said: “The world is crying out for protein. Lamb represents 2% of meat consumption in the world, wouldn’t it be great if we worked together to get that to 4%?”

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Photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash


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