Animal welfare: Will the EU revise legislation as promised?

Animal welfare: Will the EU revise legislation as promised?
Credit: The Brussels Times

Animal welfare NGOs are worried that the European Commission will backslide on its commitment to present a package of revised animal welfare legislation by the end of this year.

Ahead of European Commission President von der Leyen’s state of the union speech on Wednesday to the European Parliament, Financial Times reported that EU considers dropping stricter animal welfare measures due to pressure by agriculture lobbying organizations and concerns that the proposed changes could add to food costs.

The newspaper referred to EU officials who said that the Commission had dropped some proposals completely, such as an end to caged farming and a ban on fur farming.  Both proposals were supported in recent European Citizens’ Initiatives (ECI) that were accepted by the Commission.

The ECIs End the Cage Age” and a Fur Free Europe” were among the most successful Initiatives. In fact, seven out of the ten successful ECIs so far have been dedicated to animal welfare issues which reflects the wide-spread public opinion for improvement in this EU policy area.

A draft impact assessment by the Commission into the animal welfare proposals, seen by the Financial Times, says farmers’ costs could rise on average by about 15 per cent, which “may result in higher consumer prices” and an increase in imports.

As previously reported, the revision includes a number of directives and regulations: the directive on the protection of animals kept for farming purposes, the directives on minimum standards for the protection of laying hens, broilers, pigs and calves, and the regulations on the protection of animals during transport and at the time of killing. However, the revision of animal welfare legislation has not the full support of the Parliament and some member states.

A Commission spokesperson told The Brussels Times on Tuesday that it was not in a position to share the impact assessment of the legislative package as it still is an internal document.

“The Commission has been acting to improve animal welfare for over 40 years, progressively improving the lives of animals and adopting welfare standards in legislation that are amongst the highest in the world. Animal welfare is and will remain a priority for the Commission,” the spokesperson said.

The Farm to Fork Strategy foresees a revision of the EU’s animal welfare legislation, according to the Commission. “The preparatory work is ongoing, covering legislation for the welfare of animals kept and farmed for economic reasons, on the protection of animals during transport, at killing and to establish a European label for animal welfare.”

The spokesperson also confirmed that the Commission responded positively to the ECI “End the Cage Age”, which aims to phase out and finally prohibit the use of cages for certain species of animals by 2027.

“The existing EU animal welfare laws are absurdly outdated, as the Commission’s own services have concluded during its long legislative review process,” said Olga Kikou, Head of Compassion in World Farming EU and substitute representative of the ‘End the Cage Age’ ECI.

“The Commission made a very firm commitment in response to our European Citizens’ Initiative. It is one of a kind and gave hope to millions of citizens across the EU. The mere fact that the European Commission is even considering dropping its plans to update the animal welfare laws shows a scandalous disdain for EU democracy.”

M. Apelblat

The Brussels Times

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