The European Commission confirmed that animal welfare is going to be a condition in the trade agreement announced by the European Union and Mercosur in 2019, after 20 years of negotiations. The accord, which still needs to be ratified, provides an unprecedented free trade deal among the EU countries and the trading bloc composed of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay.
While confining laying hens in tiny cages is a legal and common practice in Mercosur countries, the EU prohibits the use of conventional battery cages. This means that Mercosur egg producers will have to comply with the EU-equivalent animal welfare rules for laying hens if they want to benefit from the duty-free access to the EU market regarding the trade of shelled eggs.
This means that the financiers of egg producers that continue to use battery cages in the Mercosur may face a financial risk. Clients that don't comply with the minimum animal welfare standards set out by the trade deal will not be able to export to the EU, which can pose a significant market risk.
Sinergia Animal celebrates this significant precedent, which supports the organization’s work to end the use of cages for laying hens in Latin America. The NGO expects similar decisions to be made regarding other animal products; not just shelled eggs. "When negotiating trade agreements, the EU should hold countries accountable to the same standards of animal welfare by which it abides," says Diamela Covarrubias, corporate outreach director at Sinergia Animal for Latin America.
However, the organization believes that the EU-Mercosur agreement could lead to an increase in animal products traded. "As it grants more market access for animal products, it will likely intensify animal farming in Mercosur countries and consequently boost deforestation," says Covarrubias.
Learn more about animal protection in the EU-Mercosur with this comprehensive report from Eurogroup For Animals. And check how banks such as Banco do Brasil, Banco Nacion, and Banco de Chile are including these standards in their policies.