You only need to look at recent press coverage in Australia to see how much benefit that country thinks it will get from our newly announced free trade agreement. But what’s the deal for the UK?
Brexiters will tell you it is a great deal, proof that Global Britain is on the march. Remainers, not so much. They want to examine the small print to see how much has been sacrificed to get Australian ink on the dotted line.
Wherever the truth lies, it's imperative that we look closely at this deal because it will set a precedent for all other deals to come. The most grotesque sacrifice identified so far is the almost total abandonment of the UK's commitment to animal welfare standards.
Australia, the world’s largest exporter of live animals for slaughter, has standards that are nowhere near those 'enjoyed' by livestock in the UK. In fact, the Animal Protection Index ranks Australia lower on every single one of their ten indicators, and the lowest possible rating on ‘Government accountability for animal welfare.’ By comparison, it gives the UK the second highest rating.
What's so bad about Australia?
The RSPCA has highlighted some of the most prominent differences in standards between the UK and Australia, including the practices of mulesing (the partial skinning of live sheep), hot branding, barren battery cages, and sow stalls, all of which are banned in the UK. Australia also does not mandate CCTV in slaughterhouses, a policy that does little to encourage a culture of compliance with those rules that are in place.
In 2018, whistleblowers documented the daily horrors onboard export ships, of sheep dehydrating, being crushed and even cooking alive during voyages. The footage was aired by Australian current affairs program, 60 Minutes in an expose called "Sheep, Ships and Videotape" but I won't link it here. The footage is horrifying.
What can we do?
Yesterday, as the two countries' respective Prime Ministers were announcing the in-principle deal, it was also revealed that the deal will not be subject to rigorous scrutiny in the House of Commons and that MPs will not be allowed to vote on it, despite it setting the precedent for deals to come.
Yes, you read that right. This Vote Leave government, a government that cried ‘sovereignty’ and made promises not to cut regulatory standards in order to force its incoherent Brexit deal through, is now refusing to allow our sovereign Parliament any opportunity to scrutinise a deal that makes a mockery of the UK’s world-class commitment to high welfare standards for animals.
Where's the clucking scrutiny?
The Australian Parliament gets a vote on the Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement. Why is Liz Truss afraid to let the House of Commons have a meaningful debate on it? What is she hiding?
The next Opposition Day debate is an opportunity for the Labour Party to ensure proper parliamentary scrutiny of this deal that would:
- endorse animal cruelty,
- destroy our agricultural sector, and
- break yet more Brexit promises.
Join us in calling on Keir Starmer to use the next available Opposition Day to shine a light on this awful deal.