Today, Donald M. Broom, Emeritus Professor from the University of Cambridge gave a presentation on “Animal Welfare in the European Union: progress so far and future prospects”. This issue is of particular relevance as new EU policy making and legislation on animal welfare has come almost to a standstill. For this term, the European Commission is just committed to foster a better stakeholder dialogue and to focus on enforcement of existing EU legislation. The Commission has no plans to prepare new legislation in this field or to publish a new EU Animal Welfare Strategy that can set a clear road map for the coming years.
The presentation clearly showed the importance of EU animal welfare policy and legislation. Prof Broom stated: “The welfare of hundreds of millions of animals has improved as a result of EU policies and legislation. EU animal welfare policy and legislation has had much positive influence in the world. The image of the EU has been improved by this kind of legislation as it is viewed as an indicator of a civilised society”.
EU surveys show that EU citizens are very concerned about animal welfare within and outside the EU. Such concern is also increasing in most other countries.
Prof. Broom referred also to the opportunities for EU companies as a result of animal welfare policy and legislation. The EU slaughter legislation for example led to development of stunning and animal management methods, first in countries that wished to export to the EU and then in other countries that developed humane slaughter legislation. EU companies have exploited this and sell stunning and slaughter systems and equipment in many countries. Other examples are laying hen systems, calf housing as well as pig housing systems. There are also opportunities for selling high welfare animal products.
He passed then on to speak about farm animals that are not yet covered by legislation. Currently, only laying hens, calves, pigs, and chickens kept for meat production have species specific EU legislation. All the other farm animals are covered by the very general Directive 98/58/EC which has had little effect to ensure better welfare.
Farmed fish, rabbits, ducks, turkeys and cattle kept for dairy and beef production lack still specific EU legislation although reports of EFSA or its predecessors clearly highlighted the serious welfare problems in the breeding, housing, transport and slaughter conditions of these animals. Prof. Broom said that the greatest animal welfare problem is leg disorders in broiler chickens. Second in the EU is the welfare of dairy cows who often suffer from lameness, mastitis and reproductive disorders.
He concluded that the European Commission’s current policy to focus on information exchange and enforcement of legislation in all Member States is valuable but is not a substitute for completing the legislation that is urgently needed.
These issues will be further developed in a study by Professor Broom, commissioned by the European Parliament Policy Department for the Petitions’ Committee that will be published before the end of January”.
Stefan Eck who chaired the meeting thanked Prof. Broom for his speech and said: “I am very pleased to hear that your presentation stressed on the need for new species specific legislation including rabbits. Next week, the Agriculture Committee will vote on my draft report on minimum standards for the protection of farm rabbits which calls for the introduction of specific legislation for these animals”.
Following the presentation, several MEPs raised the issue of animal transport stating that the current EU-legislation is hardly enforceable and should therefore be revised as already called for several times by the European Parliament, by over one million citizens through the “8hours” campaign and now also by a number of Member States like Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Belgium and Austria.
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