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Slaughtered at the altar of free trade: are WTO rules hindering the progression of animal welfare standards in agriculture?

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This article analyses the WTO legal framework to determine whether trade liberalisation, particularly through the definition of ‘like products’, and the exceptions to free trade rules found in GATT Article XX, are accommodating enough to permit advancements in animal welfare legislation. Sovereign legislatures have taken steps to promote higher standards for animal welfare within their territories. The European Union in particular is a frontrunner for promoting high animal welfare regulation, in order to provide safer products, greater human health and consumer-friendly regimes. The steps that have already been taken, domestically and in bilateral trade agreements, may be seen as a move towards an international recognition that animal welfare is an important factor in the production of food from agriculture. It is therefore important for WTO law to accommodate for the increasing concern around animal welfare. This article will argue that the current framework does not accommodate for these concerns, and may in fact prove to be a strong deterrent against import bans and other trade restrictions that would prevent low animal welfare goods being imported and marketed in territories with otherwise very strong animal welfare values.
Original languageEnglish
JournalManchester Review of Law, Crime and Ethics
Publication statusAccepted for publication - 12 Aug 2019


  • Post-print WTO Animal Welfare Paper MRLCE

    Rights statement: The embargo end date of 2050 is a temporary measure until we know the publication date. Once we know the publication date the full text of this article will be able to view shortly afterwards.

    Accepted author manuscript (Post-print), 477 KB, PDF document

    Due to publisher’s copyright restrictions, this document is not freely available to download from this website until: 1/01/50

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