Free Trade Agreement between EU and Australia freezes over disagreements in animal welfare

FOUR PAWS says the denial of a multibillion-dollar trade deal based in part on animal welfare concerns, is a strong message to industry and government that more needs to be done for animals


9 November 2023 – Last week saw discussions between the European Commissioner for Trade, Valdis Dombrovskis, and Australia’s Minister for Trade, Don Farrell, come to an abrupt halt. Mainly differences concerning quotas in the agricultural sector and disagreements towards welfare for farmed animals led to no agreement and both parties returning home empty-handed.  

Global animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS underlines the importance of key improvements in animal welfare, amongst others the phase-out of the cruel mutilation of lambs called mulesing. 

“It was reported that negotiations mainly came to a standstill because of disagreements for the access of Australian beef, mutton and lamb to the EU market, which has – in comparison to Australia – strong regulations”, says Rebecca Picallo Gil, FOUR PAWS farmed animal campaigner. 

“This is not surprising when considering the legal practices still allowed in Australian animal agriculture, practices which are banned in the EU.”  

These include:  

Use of feedlots: 96% of Australian beef exported to Europe comes from feedlots. 

Transport: Australia's rules allow live transport up to 48hs without food/water. 

Slaughter: Australia's poor animal welfare rules permit the use of practices such as the use of electronic prodders. 

Lack of use of pain relief. 

Widespread use of mulesing in Australian wool industry, one of the most invasive routine mutilations of farmed animals globally.   

“We have been advocating for years now for an industry-wide shift towards flystrike-resistant sheep breeding and management which ends mulesing and flystrike. 

“It is of most importance that EU institutions do not back away from a clear stance against mulesed wool. This procedure is banned in the European Union."

Rebecca Picallo Gil, leader “End Mulesing”-campaign, FOUR PAWS

"Furthermore, it is crucial that this ultimate goal is not softened with alleged improvements such as the usage of pain relief during the mutilation process. Of all the Australian wool growers less than one out of ten farmers are administering the best available combination of a local anaesthetic in conjunction with an analgesic.” 

Rebecca Picallo Gil, leader “End Mulesing”-campaign, FOUR PAWS


New video footage was released during a sitting in Victoria’s parliament last week shows that even if sheep are given pain relief, the animals are screaming in pain.  

“Since next year will see elections in the European Parliament, chances to find an agreement for the Free Trade agreement before that are close to zero. FOUR PAWS will continue to advocate against mulesing because pain-free alternatives are available and can save millions of lambs from this severe suffering if taken up,” Picallo Gil concludes. 

FOUR PAWS is working with fellow animal protection organisations including Eurogroup for Animals on the FTA deal, highlighting these key issues so animal protection remains a key issue. 

Background Free Trade Agreement 

The negotiations around the EU-Australia Trade Agreement started on 18 June 2018. The agreement seeks to remove barriers between the markets, improve market access on both sides, promote and enforce intellectual property rights and to introduce ambitious provisions on trade and sustainable development, showing a shared commitment to labour rights and environmental protection with reference to the climate crisis. 

FOUR PAWS has further intensified its efforts to have the FTA consider the issue of mulesing since Italy is the second biggest importer of Australian wool


FOUR PAWS against mulesing 

FOUR PAWS recently documented the rising anti-mulesing brand movement (currently over 400 global brands) and nearly 80 brands are taking a step further and calling out the Australian wool industry directly to ask for a phase out of mulesing by 2030 in this open letter.  

Despite the growing number of Australian mulesing-free growers, which amount to more than 3,000, FOUR PAWS has released individual grower case studies I, II and an economic report gathering insights of Australian wool growers who have successfully transitioned to flystrike resistant sheep breeding and management within only three to five years ending flystrike and mulesing.  

The industry needs to take measures now and support growers to switch to pain-free alternatives to meet market demands and end mulesing by 2030.  

Pigs in factory farming


Learn more
Elise Burgess

Elise Burgess

Head of Communications

M: 0423 873 382

FOUR PAWS Australia
GPO Box 2845 

Main Phone: 1800 454 228

FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them.

Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. The sustainable campaigns and projects of FOUR PAWS focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, animals in fashion, farm animals, and wild animals – such as bears, big cats, and orangutans – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones.

With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA, and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in eleven countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions.

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