A number of MEPs across the political party groups tabled on Monday a question to the European Commission asking for the appointment of a Commissioner in charge of animal welfare.
The question was promoted by Danish MEP Niels Fuglsang (S&D) and signed by 118 members of the European Parliament, which makes it one of the most-signed oral questions ever.
The Conference of Presidents of the Parliament is now called on to schedule a meeting for the Commission to answer within the next three months, and on its transformation into a resolution.
The MEPs noted that Art 13 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the EU recognises animals as sentient beings. EU legislation on animal welfare has been elaborated since 1974, but the approach of the EU institutions has been inconsistent, contributing to the problem of poor enforcement on various fronts.
“A dedicated Commissioner responsible for animal welfare should receive more influence and powers in the EU institutions on this topic whose importance has been clearly acknowledged by this Commission,” according to the signatories.
The Commission has for example supported a recent European Citizens Initiative on ending the use of cages for farmed animals. It will put forward a legislative proposal by 2023 to this effect as part of the ongoing revision of the animal welfare legislation under the Farm to Fork Strategy.
However, animal welfare conditions are currently poorly respected in EUs agricultural policy. Breaches of regulations in the pig meat sector are still largely overlooked and has been allowed to continue for years according to recent reports.
The new Commissioner’s responsibility would become “Health, Food Safety and Animal Welfare”.
“This would be a significant political decision leading to more accountability of the EU institutions for animal welfare and would therefore increase the consistency, effectiveness and impact of policy making in this field,” according to the MEPs.
A survey carried out last year in 10 EU member states showed that ca 70 % of the respondents were in favour of a Commissioner specifically in charge of animal welfare.
Asked at today’s press briefing in Brussels about the Commission’s reaction to the letter, a spokesperson replied that it considers animal welfare an important priority and that it already is included in the portfolio of the Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides.
According to animal welfare NGOs, the current Commissioner is engaged in animal welfare but this was not always the case in the past and might change again in next Commission if the issue is not regularized.
The Brussels Times