A trade deal with South America could lead to deforestation and new diseases, experts have warned.
The warning comes following the UK government’s agreement with Australia – which raised fears that hormone-injected beef may be allowed into Britain and animals injected with antibiotics because of being kept in “filthy environments” would lead to antibiotics resistance in humans.
International animal welfare organisation Animal Equality told The Independent that a South America deal would “trigger further deforestation, put greater pressure on Brazilian biodiversity, and create an increased likelihood of zoonotic diseases arising and a significant reduction in the standards of imported products into Europe”.
EU bans Brazil and Mexico meat practices
Claire Bass, executive director of Humane Society International in the UK, told the paper both the EU and the UK have previously banned “some of the most egregious production practices in intensive animal agriculture, such as confining hens in battery cages so small they are unable to even stretch their wings.”
But she said the practices are still allowed in countries like Mexico and Brazil.
Last year, EU experts labelled Brazil’s slaughter and transport rules as “insufficient”. The EU’s Food and Veterinary Office reportedly found Brazil “cannot guarantee that meat products exported to the EU have been produced in accordance with EU requirements” – as some substances used in cattle in Brazil are banned in the EU.
A spokesperson for the Trade and Animal Welfare Coalition, part of the Eurogroup for Animals, told The Independent that the UK should not be using trade policy to “further incentivise or outsource unsustainable production systems in other parts of the world.”
A government spokesperson said: “In all of our trade negotiations, we will not compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards.”
Amazon rainforest now causing faster climate change
It comes as last month it emerged the Amazon rainforest is producing more carbon dioxide than it absorbs.
According to a study, the forest has been emitting more than a billion tonnes of carbon dioxide annually.
This means it is now causing faster climate change, whereas before it was tackling it by absorbing emissions, The Guardian has reported.
Fires set intentionally to make space for the production of beef and soy are the biggest cause of emissions. But higher temperatures and droughts also contribute to the disastrous shift in the role of the rainforest, and deforestation only makes heatwaves worse.
Luciana Gatti, who led the research at Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research, said there needs to be an international agreement to save the rainforest, because exports of beef, soy and timber from Brazil are fuelling the problem.
She added: “Imagine if we could prohibit fires in the Amazon – it could be a carbon sink.
“But we are doing the opposite – we are accelerating climate change.”