Animal associations

How far does she go for animal welfare?

The current legal framework on animal welfare includes a directive on the protection of animals kept for farming purposes, four directives establishing minimum standards for the protection of laying hens, broilers, pigs and calves , a regulation on the transport of animals and a directive on the welfare of animals at the time of slaughter.

However, as society becomes increasingly concerned with animal welfare, these rules are described as inadequate and not offering sufficient protections.

In September 2018, the launch of the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) “Ending the age of cages” prompted the European Union to take concrete action.

The ECI, which called for legislation banning the use of cages for a wide variety of animal species, passed the required threshold of validation with over 1.6 million signatures and was therefore presented to the European Commission.

As part of the Farm to Fork Strategy presented on 20 May 2020, the Commission announced that existing animal welfare legislation will be completely overhauled by 2023. The new legislation aims to ensure a level of higher protection, have a wider reach, be easier to apply and in line with the latest scientific evidence. The Commission is also committed to proposing to phase out, and eventually ban, the use of cages for all species and categories of animals referred to in the ECI.

Alongside the announcement, the Commission launched a Fitness Check of current farm animal welfare legislation, the results of which are being used to review existing rules and guide future initiatives. At the same time, the Commission has asked EFSA for several scientific opinions, which should be available in 2022 or early 2023.

Under the proposed initiative, the Commission intends to revise the rules on animal transport and animal welfare at farm level, including slaughter. The Commission also suggests assessing the impact of a European regulatory framework with criteria for an animal welfare labeling system, as there is currently no European legislation on animal welfare claims or labeling. animal wellbeing. The revision will cover animals bred and kept for agricultural purposes, including cats and dogs, but excluding wild animals, invertebrate animals or experimental or laboratory animals, with the exception of the rules concerning their well-being during transport.

The Commission’s proposal is generally supported by the European Parliament and the European Council and is the subject of strong interest from interested parties.

In October 2021, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) adopted an own-initiative report on the Farm to Fork Strategy, approving a report from the Committee on the Environment and Agriculture (AGRI) containing provisions on animal welfare and conservation. In December 2021, the Council approved conclusions for an EU-wide animal welfare label.

The Commission’s public consultation on the revision of the EU animal welfare rule, which closed on 21 January 2022, received just under 60,000 responses.

Last month, MEPs also adopted recommendations for better rules to protect animals during transport calling, among other things, for transport journeys not to exceed eight hours and for Member States to create fast lanes for the transport of animals across EU borders to reduce travel times. Interestingly, MEPs also suggested that the Commission appoint a European Commissioner for Animal Welfare and a dedicated Directorate-General “to reflect the importance of this issue for European citizens and to ensure that it benefits from ‘sufficient political attention’.

But while this agenda is far-reaching, its implementation is still critical to translating political vision into action. It remains to be seen whether the results will live up to these ambitions.