THE UK’s largest representative body for the veterinary profession has responded following reports that the Government is in talks to secure trade deals with Australia and New Zealand, reiterating that animal welfare standards must not be compromised in pursuit of these or any future agreements.

The British Veterinary Association (BVA), has called for any free trade agreements with Australia and New Zealand to have an ambitious and comprehensive animal welfare chapter, including detailed provisions on animal welfare cooperation.

It was reported that the Government is exploring a deal with Australia which would bring in cheaper imports in return for zero tariffs. The National Farmers Union (NFU) has already warned that UK farmers will struggle to compete under these arrangements, and high standards risk being undermined despite government assurances.

In response to a House of Lords sub-committee consultation on UK-Australia trade negotiations last year, BVA noted that animal welfare standards currently diverge significantly between the UK and Australia. The Animal Protection Index gives the UK a B grade in overall animal welfare, whereas Australia holds a D grade.

James Russell, BVA President, said they recognise the importance of securing a firm footing for the UK on the global trading stage now that we have left the EU, but removing barriers needs to go hand in hand with protecting the UK’s hard-won reputation for high welfare standards and preserving the livelihoods of our farming communities.