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The Breakdown of the EU-Mercosur Agreement: What Could Take Decades to Repair

Animal Equality is working towards securing legal protection for animals in Brazil, in light of the harmful EU-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement being negotiated between the European Union and Mercosur countries.
June 8, 2023 Updated: January 29, 2024
Photo from the front lines of Brazil’s raging fires highlights how Brazil’s under-regulated meat industry is driving deforestation in some of the country’s most biodiverse ecosystems Photo from the front lines of Brazil’s raging fires highlights how Brazil’s under-regulated meat industry is driving deforestation in some of the country’s most biodiverse ecosystems.

The label “trade agreement” may not sound alarming, but the potential consequences of the EU-Mercosur Agreement are severe. Our team in Brazil is tirelessly fighting against the agreement as it would take a step backward for animal protections and the situation could take decades to repair. 

What is the EU-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement?

“Mercosur” is a group of South American countries that have come together to make trade agreements, which allows countries to work together and boost their trade and economic relationships. Brazil is one of the most important countries in this group, playing a significant role in shaping its decisions and policies.

The EU-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement is a trade deal negotiated between the European Union (EU) and a group of South American countries known as Mercosur. The Agreement  has been in negotiations since the late 1990s. For over 20 years, politicians from Mercosur have been discussing a trade agreement with Europe. This agreement aims to simplify trade between Brazil and Europe, making it easier for businesses to exchange goods.

The agreement, which was signed by the State parties in June 2019, is currently generating significant controversy. One of the main concerns revolves around the potential impacts it may have on animals and the environment, with critics argue could lead to harmful consequences. In addition to civil society organizations, several EU member states, such as France and Austria, are actively mobilizing against the agreement. 

The European Parliament has also taken a stance, declaring that it will not ratify the agreement “as it stands”. This opposition highlights the growing resistance to the agreement and the need for further discussions and potential modifications. 

The Risks of the EU-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement:

The agreement has raised significant concerns regarding its potential environmental and human rights impacts, particularly in the southern countries involved in the agreement. Experts fear a rise in the number of animals slaughtered for their meat, the worsening of climate change and human rights violations.

Despite these concerns, the government predicts that the agreement could lead to “significant economic benefits” for Brazil, with an estimated increase of nearly $125 billion over 15 years.

When ratified by its States members, the EU-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement will be the largest agreement in the world impacting regions that together represent about 25% of the World’s Gross Internal Product and 780 million people. In Brazil, The Ministry of Economy’s Foreign Trade Secretariat (Secex/ME) estimates an increase of US $87.5 billion in Brazilian GDP in 15 years, reaching US $125 billion.

An immediate impact would be an increase in the number of animals raised for meat consumption to meet the demand of European markets. This could lead to more deforestation and land degradation, as factory farming is one of the main drivers of these issues in Brazil and other South American countries.  Currently, cows in Brazil are typically raised in pastures. The trade agreement could lead to an increase in the use of feedlot systems, which some claim are more “sustainable.”

However, the reason for Brazil’s devastating deforestation stems from a lack of accountability rather than the current pasture system. And with the increase in animals raised for meat, the land will still be used to grow food, like grains, to feed the animals.

Photo from the front lines of Brazil’s raging fires highlights how Brazil’s under-regulated meat industry is driving deforestation in some of the country’s most biodiverse ecosystems

Another concern is the risk of new pandemics. By moving to feedlot systems, farmers will turn to confining animals inside cages. Confining animals in tight spaces is a breeding ground for diseases, including ones that affect humans. To compensate, more antibiotics are administered which only leads to antibiotic resistance and the increased likelihood of new pandemics. 

Most new and emerging diseases come from animals. This is especially true in factory farms, where animals are crammed together in their own feces. 

European leaders have already approved a ban on extreme confinement for animals. But if the Trade Agreement passes as it stands, animals shipped to Europe will be confined to small cages. And if demand for Brazilian meat goes up, these conditions will get much worse. 

How Animal Equality is Advocating for Animal Protection Laws in the EU-Mercosur Agreement:

Animal Equality Brazil and the organizations of the coalition to protect farmed animals  (including Mercy for Animals, Fórum Nacional of Defense and Animal Protection, Alianima, HSI,. Sinergia Animal and the World Animal Protection) believe animals should be protected with the adoption of the “mirror clauses,” which means the same legislations applicable to European countries should be applicable to the Mercosur countries. 

The European Parliament should not ratify the Agreement as it stands because it is going to create decades of harm to the protection of animals in Brazil and Mercosur countries, which is going to be very difficult to overcome in the future. On the other hand, it is an unique opportunity for the Agreement to foster a more sustainable food system, less dependent on animal protein.

Executive Director of Brasil, Carla Lettieri
Rescued hen held by Animal Equality volunteer

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Animal Equality has sent a letter to the Brazilian government to introduce animal welfare protection clauses within the agreement. Our team in Brazil is urging leaders involved in the agreement to make a positive decision in favor of the parties that will be directly affected. 

By advocating for greater participation in the discussion, Animal Equality is working to create a more cohesive community that is engaged in shaping its own future.

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