The most important political and economic decision of the past week didn’t happen during the G20 summit held in Japan, but during trade negotiations in Brussels.
After 20 years of bargaining, the European Union and the South American Mercosur trading block which includes Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, have reached agreement on a new free-trade deal.
Covering markets with the total of approximately 780 million consumers, the deal is the largest free trade agreement involving the EU and it follows the recent European trade agreements with Canada , Japan, Mexico, and Vietnam. The agreement is set to eliminate import taxes levied on European goods and services exported to the South American block and a reciprocal reduction in taxes on imports from those countries into Europe.
The deal includes many economic sectors, however it’s no accident that images of cows were picked for the headlines of the deals’ media coverage. The cows flesh industry has a very big part in the deal, as one of the goals of the Mercosur countries is to intensify it. They hope to export up to 99,000 tonnes of cows flesh to Europe every year before they have to pay tariffs. 99,000 tonnes of cows flesh is about 450,000 suffering individuals.
Such a large scale export of cheap animals flesh is expected to increase the flesh consumption of the 500 million European consumers. And even the hope that it would at least lead to a decrease in European factory farms, is very unlikely since the EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan said that the European Commission would provide up to a billion euros in support to farmers “in the event of market disturbances“. That support might lead to a reduction in the European flesh’s prices and so an overall greater increase in consumption.
Cows exploited in the dairy industry are also expected to be effected by the trade deal, as the current customs duty of dairy products stand at 28 percent. When these duties would be removed, cheap dairy products are expected to flood EU markets, and consequently increase the number of exploited animals in South America.
Chickens are included in the trade agreement as well. In the media coverage they are mentioned as a side note, as part of the list of “goods”, along with automobiles, ethanol, sugar, wine and spirits. That is despite that the duty-free quota under the agreement allows 100,000 tonnes of chickens flesh. That’s about 60 million individuals.
This week, as most weeks, was another proof that the fate of billions of sentient beings is determined not by morality but by trade agreements such as this one, like NAFTA, the China-US agreement and CETA as well as economic and political interests and disputes.
The animal activists community tend to disregard the issue, probably because it embodies and reflects how fragile the few achievements made by activists are. These trade deals are horrible reminder of how feeble ethics is compared with economics and politics.
That obviously doesn’t mean we should give up trying to do everything in our power to stop the suffering. On the contrary, our call is for activists to do everything in their power to stop the suffering. Only that changing the world is not in our power. But maybe destroying it is.
Our call is for activists to stop devoting their entire lives just to marginally scrape the edges of this exploitative world, and only to see how one trade deal after another subdue all the little gains accomplished, and start devoting the rest of their lives to fight all the maladies at once by looking for ways to destroy it.