Olga Kikou / Oct 2022
At the beginning of October, the European Commission published its evaluation of current EU animal welfare law. This is an important step forward in recognising the animal suffering that goes largely unnoticed in farms all around Europe.
The analysis highlights crucial issues that Compassion in World Farming, together with EU citizens, have long been raising awareness about and have repeatedly asked to be improved.
The Commission document assesses the current rules and “the extent to which they are relevant, efficient, effective, coherent, and have EU added value”. It concludes that the current level of animal welfare in the EU is “sub optimal”.
This confirms what we and others have been saying for years: the measures in place are ineffective, obsolete and vague, and do not safeguard the welfare of the hundreds of millions of land animals and one billion fish raised on EU farms every year.
Unsurprisingly this conclusion contradicts the usual arguments we hear coming from certain EU policymakers and representatives of the agribusiness sector, who often brag about the superiority of EU animal welfare standards.
The document explicitly identifies cages and confined housing systems as “significantly restricting animal movements and hampering their welfare”.
The suffering cages cause to the animals they confine is the reason why 1.4 million EU citizens signed the European Citizens’ Initiative ‘End the Cage Age’. As a result, the Commission committed last year to phasing out cages when it proposes updated animal welfare legislation in 2023.
The analysis states that “scientists have recognised fish as sentient beings” but that this “is not reflected in the EU animal welfare legislation in the sense of specific requirements”. In particular “as regards the killing of fish, some processes are pointed out to be particularly inhumane".
This is an important acknowledgement, and the Commission must act on it to finally provide an adequate level of protection for these species, given the frightening reality of the billion fish that currently suffer silently in underwater factory farms each year.
On animal transport, the document acknowledges the flaws in enforcement of the current rules but is otherwise disappointing in its lack of clear-cut recognition that the trade of animals with third countries must end. The export of live animals to third countries involves immense suffering on often long journeys and the only way to prevent this is to end the live export trade and replace it with trade in meat and carcasses.
On a more positive note, the Commission’s analysis recognizes the great importance of basing the new legislation on the latest scientific evidence - and of reflecting the demands of today’s society.
Increasing numbers of citizens become aware that reducing meat and dairy consumption is one of the key steps they can take to reduce their climate impact and help make the European Green Deal a reality.
Overall, the Commission’s analysis signals an official and public acknowledgement of many of the shortcomings in the current animal welfare legislation.
It should now be clear to all what needs to be done. The forthcoming legislation must put an end to these flaws, providing an optimal level of protection for the EU’s farmed animals and farmed fish.