ALDF Urges the U.S. to Promote Animal and Consumer Safety in Trade NegotiationsPosted by The Stanford Law School Student Animal Legal Defense Fund on April 25, 2014
What do international trade negotiations have to do with the way animals are treated? More than you might suspect. The federal government is currently in the middle of talks with Europe aimed at forming a sweeping new trade agreement. The goal of an eventual agreement, which will be called the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), is to boost trade between the U.S. and Europe. One way of increasing trade may be to revamp regulations—in particular, food regulations—so that more food can be imported on both sides. For example, Europe doesn’t allow as many antibiotics in its meat as the U.S. and so meat produced here often can’t be sold in Europe. Therefore, one result of an agreement may be that food regulations in the U.S. and Europe become more uniform.
This could be a good thing. If Europe agrees to adopt our best practices, and we agree to adopt Europe’s best practices, then consumers and animals on both sides of the Atlantic will win. That’s the position ALDF and 28 other animal rights, environmental, and consumer groups took in a recent letter to the U.S. Trade Representative, who speaks for the President in these negotiations. But if the meat industry gets its way, just the opposite will happen: food safety and animal welfare regulations will weaken on a host of issues. Here are a few of the main issues at stake, which ALDF has asked the federal government to take a stand on:
Decreasing antibiotics use in meat production. As ALDF has noted in its petition to the USDA, excessive use of antibiotics in animals raised for food (to promote rapid animal growth using less feed) is a major contributor to antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections that are estimated to kill more than 23,000 people each year in the U.S. alone. The federal government should tighten regulations on antibiotic use at home, rather than ask European nations to loosen the safety regulations they already have in place.
Banning the animal feed additive “ractopamine.” Europe doesn’t allow the use of ractopamine in meat production or import meat from animals that have been treated with it. That’s because animals treated with ractopamine can suffer serious health problems, and there have never been conclusive, comprehensive studies on the drug’s effects on humans. As ALDF has long argued, in partnership with the Center for Food Safety, U.S. should follow Europe’s lead and ban the drug.
Playing it safe on “mad cow” disease. The U.S. bans the import of feed ingredients that could be contaminated with mad cow disease. Yet the European meat industry is seeking to overturn this ban, even while the E.U. is considering relaxing its own internal preventative measures. Mad cow disease, which affects a cow’s nervous system, destroys the animal’s brain and spinal cord. The fact that incidents of the disease have fallen dramatically in recent years is a sign that existing regulations work, not that they should be weakened.
Defending Country-of-Origin Labeling. The U.S. requires clear labeling that shows where food comes from, which helps consumers make informed decisions. The federal government should stand fast in requiring such labeling, and encourage other nations to take similar steps. In this way, consumers can make informed choices about animal welfare and their diets, both here and abroad.