A German initiative to create a European farm-products label guaranteeing respect for animal welfare received broad support at the European Agriculture Ministers Council on Monday.
Despite the support, many countries, Belgium included, wanted the label to be voluntary rather than binding.
The ideal would be a compulsory, binding system covering all products sold on the European market, Julia Klöckner, the German Agriculture Minister, said. Many of her colleagues back the idea, as long as the system is voluntary.
“The European consumer today is confronted with a large number of labels that are supposed to provide a series of guarantees with regard to the welfare of farm animals, but in practice, these guarantees are often very limited, and even debatable,” Belgian Minister Denis Ducarme commented. He argued that a voluntary label harmonised at the European level “would have the advantage of clarity and coherence” on an EU scale for consumers.
Along with French Minister Didier Guillaume, he insisted that farmers, “the overwhelming majority of whom remain extremely attentive to animal care,” should not be stigmatised.
The Netherlands, Denmark and Austria already have experience in “animal welfare” labelling, while Germany is working on it. The idea is to harmonise these initiatives under a single European label based on verifiable criteria. Klöckner stressed the importance of verifiable information for consumers, but also for producers, for whom it could mean new market opportunities, she argued.
However, some States, such as Greece, stressed that rules already existed and asked the Commission to do a prior analysis.
Meanwhile, the European executive body is scheduled to do an evaluation of the strategy on animal welfare this year. The Commission has confirmed that the proposal that it will come up with under its Green Deal and its farm-to-table strategy would envisage such labelling.