Fire / Feu

Misères du
libre échange

L'OMC et le FMI tentent d'éliminer les barrières au commerce international, indépendamment des conséquences environnementale, sociale ou politique.

Oeuvrant sans aucun mandat éthique, ces organisations ne reconnaissent pas la souffrance des animaux ou la destruction des espèces en voie d'extinction comme des barrières justifiables au commerce international. 

Et c'est ainsi que les pays ayant des normes plus élevées pour le bien-être des animaux et qui tentent d'empêcher l'importation de produits animaux provenant de pays aux pratiques inhumaines sont réprimandés par l'OMC pour entrave au commerce et pratiques discriminatoires.

Le docteur Kail présente plusieurs exemples de tentatives échouées d'empêcher l'importation de produits animaux provenant de pays ayant peu ou aucune norme éthique.

Free Trade in Misery

Dr. Paul Kail
Animal Insight
August 2000

he aim of the World Trade Organization (WTO) is to force countries to remove trade barriers, regardless of the environmental, social or moral consequences. Membership is voluntary; however, following a 1996 agreement, the WTO has worked closely with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. These organizations have the power to give or withhold financial assistance to a country, based on the extent to which it has deregulated its economy and complied with WTO rules. What does this mean in terms of membership?

Because the WTO operates in a moral vacuum, it does not recognize a trade restriction based on ethical grounds as legitimate. Countless laws to reduce suffering and preserve endangered species have been abandoned as a direct result of the WTO.

It is inevitably the case that animal welfare legislation develops piecemeal. Some counties, such as Sweden, are typically at the forefront, while others, such as Japan and Mexico, are still a few decades behind. Thus, it is critical that countries that have high welfare standards be able to limit imports of goods produced in countries that have lower ethical standards. Unfortunately, WTO rules make this impossible. In some circumstances, it can even be illegal to inform consumers how the different products were produced, as this is regarded as a form of discrimination.

Nor is it possible for countries to simply ignore the WTO rules. When this happens, the country "injured" by the supposedly unfair trade barriers can demand an amount of money equivalent to the losses caused by the barrier. In addition, the country is labeled as a renegade member of the WTO, with serious consequences.

For example, in 1995, the European Union (EU) banned the use of steel-jaw leg hold traps, and announced that the following year it would ban the import of fur from thirteen species unless these traps had been replaced by more humane alternatives. In the United States (US) and Canada, the fur lobbies lobbied their governments to challenge the ban through the WTO. Knowing that it would inevitably lose, the EU effectively backed down.

Leg-hold traps are cruel and indiscriminate. When an animal is caught, he or she is in constant pain for hours or days. In some cases, animals have been so desperate to escape that they have chewed off their own limbs. This cruelty is unnecessary: the EU was not asking the fur industry to quit completely, merely to replace steel-jaw traps with more humane alternatives. The ban received widespread support in EU countries, and was clearly the will of the people.

Another example concerns dolphins. In the Eastern Tropical Pacific, tuna fish are typically found underneath shoals of dolphins. Fishermen therefore developed a technique for catching tuna in which speedboats are used to chase the dolphins and the fish are caught in purse seine nets. However, the dolphins are also caught up in this, and either drown or are crushed by winches on the ship. Five to seven million dolphins have died because of this method of fishing. In the 1980s, the US introduced laws that regulated the way in which dolphins were killed by American fleets, and banned the import of tuna caught using methods which kill dolphins.

However, Mexico filed a complaint to (General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs) GATT, the precursor of the WTO, saying the US regulations were an "unfair trade barrier". Although the US challenged these rulings, when GATT developed into the WTO the right to block rulings was lost. Following lobbying from the Mexican tuna industry, and under threat of an appeal to the WTO, the US changed its legislation to allow tuna caught using methods that kill dolphins to be sold in the US.

Crowded in crates stacked on the back of a truck, chickens are transported to the slaughterhouse

(photo: Farm Sanctuary)

A further example concerns battery farming of chickens. Although EU regulations on the welfare of farm animals are inadequate, laws in the US are even worse. The EU minimum standard for chickens since 1995 has been 450 sq cm (70 sq inches) per bird. This is pitiful. Yet, in the US, many birds are kept in half this space. In 2012, the EU will ban battery cages entirely. However, unless the EU has the power to veto the dictates of the WTO, this will have little overall effect on animal welfare. Because of the WTO, it is inevitable that countries with relatively high welfare standards will have their markets swamped with animals kept under more brutal conditions overseas.

Many people have argued that the underlying purpose of the WTO and IMF is simply to make the world more comfortable for international corporations. Whether this is true or not, it is clear that they regard protection of the environment and a desire to treat our fellow creatures humanely as an impediment to development, rather than an essential part of it.