Two days from now is the implementation date of CETA – the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement. As the name implies, it’s an extensive deal which basically drops barriers between the EU and Canada.
Like in the previous horrific trade deals (NAFTA and the China-US agreement), along with the automobile industry, minerals, and communication technologies, animal exploitation has a significant share in this agreement.
As of the day after tomorrow, 92% of European agricultural “products” will be exported to Canada with zero tariffs (the tariffs on the remaining “items” will either gradually phase out over the next several years, or be subjected to tariffs which are imposed only above a fixed amount of the “product”). 94% of the EU’s tariffs on Canadian agricultural “products” will also immediately drop to zero, and in a few years it would rise to 95%.
CETA comes into effect almost entirely despite the fact that it hasn’t gone through all legal procedures yet. The European Parliament ratified it, and so did Canada’s cabinet, but the deal will enter definitively into force once the parliaments in all member states of the EU ratify it (up until now 4 members voted in favor of it: Spain, Denmark, Latvia and Croatia).
Therefore on the 21st, all the non-controversial elements that both sides agree upon (more than 90% of the deal) will be implemented. The fact that most of CETA is set in motion despite not being voted upon was politically cunning. By making it a de facto reality, with many benefits to consumers and strengthening of ties between the two economies, the deal is much harder to vote down in parliaments and reversed.
This deal faced opposition from civil society, and for a short moment last year it seemed as if it may not be completed, but unfortunately the political and economic forces were able to push it through. Most of the objections regarded aspects such as that corporations can sue countries if they don’t find their legislation convenient enough for their business, and some others regarded some environmental concerns. But as always, nonhuman animals were hardly on the opposition agenda. The relatively little attention they did receive was almost entirely by groups aimed at promoting a more “humane” exploitation, publishing criticism regarding the expected deterioration in welfare conditions due to the vast differences between the EU’s welfare regulations and Canada’s.
In addition to this worsening, in some fields of exploitation, the number of abused animals is about to rise dramatically as a result of this trade agreement.
Cows and Pigs on Both Sides of the Atlantic
The criticism about the inevitable drop in welfare standards is due to the fact that CETA does not require EU imports of Canadian animal products to comply with EU laws about animal exploitation.
As opposed to what may wrongly be the common assumption among many AR activists, the veal industry is not illegal among EU members, so is ducks’ and geese’s gavage for the production of foie grass, and unfortunately the same goes for sow stalls and battery cages. The use of these torturous practices was variously restricted, but it definitely wasn’t outlawed, and it is not about to be outlawed in the near future. But still, the EU welfare regulations, extremely torturous and utterly speciesist as they are, are far better than the Canadian ones (and painfully and depressingly, better than any other country’s as well). So the fear is that even the little gains that a relatively small number of animals got, after decades of campaigns by relatively many AR activists, would at least partly be lost.
CETA will create downwards pressure on domestic abusers to cut costs in the name of “competitiveness”, practically leading to even more consolidation towards big factory farms.
This is very significant since CETA provides Canada a wide market access into the EU.
The amount of murdered cows (“veal” included) Canada is allowed to send to the EU without any tariffs, is over 50,000 tonnes each year (45,838 tonnes, which are added to the 4,162 tonnes that the EU had already granted to Canada before CETA, as compensation for the EU banning of growth hormones). Also, for the first time, bison meat will be exported to Europe, at an amount of 3,000 tonnes without any tariffs. And an existing quota of 11,500 tonnes on the very profitable “high quality beef” (which is shared between Canada and the US) will be maintained under the agreement, only that now Canada’s in-quota duty will be brought to zero. The Canadian industry is forecasted to be strengthened by approximately $590 million in annual exports compared with the current total of $5-$10 million.
As for murdered pigs, the duty-free portion is even higher – 75,000 tonnes per year. This will be added to an existing no tariff quota of 4,600 tonnes.
In both exploitative industries, this increased access will be gradually implemented over the next few years.
With this trade deal (and along with NAFTA of course) Canada received a massive boost, which further strengthens its already strong position as a global producer of big mammals’ flesh.
In less than one generation, Canada moved from barely being able to exploit enough pigs to meet its domestic demand, to currently being the world’s fifth-largest exporter. In 2016 alone it shipped 1.246 million tons of pigs’ flesh (valued 3.8 billion Canadian dollars) to over 100 countries.
And regarding its cows flesh industry, Canada has recovered from the worldwide ban on cows’ flesh due to mad cow disease in 2003. From virtually zero 15 years ago, in 2016 Canada exported 359,600 tonnes of cows’ flesh (which are worth 2. 3 billion Canadian dollars).
Today between 60 to 70% of Canadian pigs’ flesh, and about 40% of Canadian cows’ flesh is exported. This is largely the result of NAFTA, which led to an intensification of animal exploitation in order to achieve more “competitiveness”. Canadian exploiters benefit from post NAFTA government incentives, cheap grain for feed (also thanks to NAFTA‘s zero tariff on soy and corn), abundant lands to incarcerate animals and dump waste. Thus, they can sell their “products” at low prices over the world. And now they have reached the EU, tariff free.
However, the shipping of animals’ corpses is also expected to go in the opposite direction. In 2015, conveniently coinciding with the free trade negotiations, Canada lifted its ban on EU cows (which stood since 1996, due to mad cow disease). Since the lift, exports of dead cows from the EU had in practice a 26.5% tariff. Now that CETA is implemented there will be unlimited duty free access for EU cows flesh exports to Canada.
Like Canada, the EU is also export oriented. This is due to the notorious European policies of heavy agricultural subsidies which encourage “production surpluses”. An annual budget of 59 billion euro is invested in agriculture, which is 39% of the entire EU budget. These subsidies deliberately drive prices down, with the intention to support animal exploiters and make them and the “entire chain of production” more competitive on the global market.
So all in all, more animals on both sides of the Atlantic will suffer.
Worse Dairy Cows Exploitation In Canada, More Victims In Europe
In the post about NAFTA we’ve mentioned Canada’s dairy supply management system which limits imports in order to protect its domestic abusers from foreign abusers’ competition. This keeps prices at a higher level, and as we mentioned, in a very cynical way, the self-interests of animal exploiters coincided with preventing even greater animal suffering, by not exposing cows to the ‘race to bottom’ invariably involved in free trade.
This approach was compromised in NAFTA, and now it undergoes another dwindling in CETA.
Until today “only” 13,000 tonnes of European cheeses came into Canada duty-free, with very high tariffs applied above this quota in order to dissuade high volumes of imports (for example, 245% tariff on cheese, 298% on butter). According to CETA, over the next 5 years Canada will gradually open its market for additional 18,500 tonnes of cheese annually. In other words it more than doubles the amount it imports duty-free.
Already consumption of cheese in Canada is consistently rising by about 1% per year (from 12.40kg per person in 2007 to 13.38kg in 2016). And now a greater amount of products, and of larger variety, will be available for Canadian consumers, in lower prices. Some Canadian exploiters are hoping that consumers will develop a new taste for previously unknown European products, and this greater variety will lead to the whole market expansion.
As part of “preparations” towards CETA, the federal government of Canada announced a $350 million package for the dairy industry, helping it to improve “productivity” of its domestic exploiters, and stay competitive in the new market conditions.
So to put it plainly, it’s either that cheaper dairy products will come from the EU and so will expand the Canadian market, meaning more animals will be exploited in the EU, or that the Canadian dairy supply management system will manage to stay competitive with the government’s help, meaning more animals’ suffering in Canada. Either way, and as always, the animals lose.
Marine Animals – the Ones Who Suffer in the Greatest Numbers Are Also the Most Overlooked
The most neglected victims of CETA, as always, are marine animals. Both Canada and the EU will eventually fully eliminate all tariffs on “fisheries products”. As of the 21st of September, 96% of EU tariffs on Canadian fishes and “seafood” will be removed, and the remaining 4% of the tariffs will then be phased out over the next 3 to 7 years.
To get a sense of the scope of animals that are about to reach Europe with no limitations, we can look at the expected amount of exported fish expressed in the transitional quota that was fixed under CETA to avoid “overabundance”. For the first several years, an annual amount of “only” 23,000 tonnes of shrimps, and “only” 1,000 tonnes of cod fishes will enter duty free (exceeding these quota is allowed, but with tariffs).
Prior to the trade deal, the EU tariffs for fishes and “seafood” averaged at 11% and can be as high as 25%. The EU is already the biggest importer of “seafood” in the world in value terms. According to the European Commission, consumers in the EU spent 54 billion euro on fisheries’ and aquaculture “products” in 2015, reaching the highest amount ever recorded. Consumption keeps increasing quite steadily, European Commission figures show another rise in recent years. For example, in 2014 per capita fishes consumption rose to 25.5 kg, as EU consumers ate one kilogram of fishes’ flesh more than in 2013. This increase was more significant for farmed fishes in aquaculture (6% rise in a single year) than for wild caught (2.7% rise). And now under CETA, fishes and “seafood” will be much cheaper.
Due to this continuous consumption trend, and now CETA, Canada, which already very much leans towards exporting the marine animals it exploits, will only get stronger. In 2015, it was the world’s eighth-largest fishes and “seafood” exporter, with exports valued at $6 billion. The country’s aquaculture “production” has grown over 400% since 1989, and in 2015 it stood at 187,374 metric tonnes of animals, and valued at $967 million.
There’s another aspect to the deal which strengthen the “seafood” industry and its ability to expend. Simultaneously to the negotiations between the EU bloc and Canada, Canada also had to court some of its own local provinces, in order for them to support the agreement. The more remote provinces were worried that a free trade deal, which forbids protectionist legislation, would create conditions less favorable for their local fishing industry (for example, under CETA, the northern Newfoundland and Labrador province would no longer be allowed to maintain its laws restricting export of raw fish, aimed to keep the processing parts in the province, and create more jobs). The result was a $325-million federal government investment in the “seafood” industry, designed to help it be “internationally competitive”, spur “innovation”, and provide access to and development of new markets. So in many aspects this horrific trade deal set the conditions leading to the next one.
Progressively Progressing to More Suffering
Over the past year, globalization and “free” trade have increasingly benefited from being associated with enlightenment, for supposedly being the counter view to the rising notions of nationalistic protectionism (Trump’s “America First”, and Brexit). Accordingly, CETA is presented as a “progressive trade agreement”, as Trudeau puts it. His trade minister referred to it as a “gold standard deal”, and the EU representatives said it’s “a free trade deal fit for the 21st century”.
With the last statement we must agree. It’s truly a deal much alike the 21th century, many more animals suffering much more.