It seems negotiations on the free trade agreement between the European Union (EU) and South America have gained momentum. The so-called Mercosur trade agreement will enable the EU to import cheap meat from countries such as Brazil. This will be a disaster for animal welfare, environment, nature, and European farmers. In the Netherlands, the Party for the Animals is leading the opposition against the free trade agreement.
Party for the Animals MP Esther Ouwehand debating the Mercosur deal.
A final agreement between the EU and four South American countries - the so-called Mercosur countries, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay - will possibly be reached as soon as the end of this month. If the deal continues, import tariffs for products including meat, sugar, wheat and ethanol will be drastically reduced.
Disaster for climate, animal welfare, nature and environment
In the Mercosur countries, meat is produced in much lower animal welfare and environmental standards than in the EU. Standards for the use of agricultural toxins are also lower in those countries.
The negative impact of industrial-scale livestock farming on climate, nature and environment is huge. In Brazil, the livestock sector is already responsible for 80 percent of deforestation. In 2016, a primary forest the size of Switzerland was cut down. The Mercosur agreement is expected to only intensify this negative impact, with disastrous consequences for animals and fragile nature.
Dutch Party for the Animals leads the opposition
Esther Ouwehand, MP for the Dutch Party for the Animals, has therefore tabled a motion urging the government in the EU to resist a free trade agreement with the Mercosur countries that includes agriculture.
Ouwehand: “The Mercosur agreement is the largest free trade agreement ever. An agreement between the EU and countries including Brazil, whose president Bolsonaro has indicated he is willing to sacrifice rainforests and human rights for the sake of cheap beef and cattle feed production. A country in which tens of toxins, that had been illegal for a long time, have been allowed back to the market. The Party for the Animals is fighting this devastating deal tooth and nail. Almost the entire opposition is now behind us. The ruling parties have no choice but to show courage.”
The Party for the Animals is not alone: nature conservation and environmental organisations as well as human rights organisations are opposed to the agreement. Even the European farmer union Copa-Cogeca - usually directly opposed to the views of the Party for the Animals - is fighting to prevent the Mercosur agreement from becoming law. The governments of Ireland, Poland, Belgium and France have also expressed their concerns about the agreement. Finally, consumer organisations are gravely concerned about the many scandals surrounding South American agricultural products: inspections of meat have identified salmonella and chemicals.
However, the Dutch ‘farmers parties’ such as the Christian Democrats (CDA) and the Liberals (VVD) are letting the farmers down by committing to the agreement. It seems the livestock sector is used in the agreement as a bargaining chip to provide the European car industry with a larger sales market in South America. “With friends like that, farmers do not need enemies. Nevertheless, we have not lost confidence that these parties are prepared to keep an open mind to the farmers’ plea to stop this deal. The risks for European agriculture, people, nature and environment are becoming ever more evident. The parties cannot keep turning a blind eye,” concludes Ouwehand.