On Wednesday 8 February, the Greens/EFA Group, the S&D Group and Humane Society International (HSI) hosted the event “Investing in animal suffering?”, which focused on investment policies of international finance institutions (IFIs) into intensive animal agriculture outside the EU and its impacts on animal welfare and EU farmers.
Dr Chetana Mirle, Director, Farm Animals at HSI presented a report that revealed how international financial institutions and export credit agencies, which are supported by EU Member States, continue to provide public money to intensive animal farming operations outside the EU that use production systems long prohibited in the EU, such as barren battery cages for laying hens.
MEPs, representatives of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the farming industry (Copa & Cogeca), the European Commission (DG SANTE) and the Austrian Government had the opportunity to respond to the findings during a lively debate. The speakers acknowledged that some progress has been made by both international finance institutions like the EBRD and some Member States. Particularly Austria has already introduced clear policy guidelines to ensure that in future no public funds are invested in agricultural projects that do not meet EU animal welfare standards. However, coherent policy action is still very much needed at both EU and Member State level to ensure that investment is restricted to those animal agricultural projects in third countries that meet or exceed the minimum EU animal welfare standards.
Martin Häusling (Greens/EFA, DE) said “- despite some progress since the last three years, taxpayers’ money continues to fund agricultural enterprises outside the EU that force animals to live in cruel stabling systems. The European Commission and all Member States should follow the Austrian Government’s example by producing comprehensive policy guidelines which can prevent, that public funds are invested in agricultural projects which do not meet EU animal welfare standards. It is also crucial to EU farmers that they are operating on a level playing field and do not have to compete with producers from outside the EU who are keeping farm animals under unacceptable conditions.”
Isabella De Monte (S&D, IT), an active Member of the Animal Welfare Intergroup concluded by stating “-these issues are still work in progress. The protection of animal welfare is a key concern for EU citizens and through the EU investment policy the EU has a clear opportunity to influence and improve the lives of animals kept for food. It is necessary that those responsible for animal welfare in both national governments and at the European Commission start a dialogue to ensure that animal welfare becomes a mandatory criterion that should be taken into account when deciding on the financing of projects outside the EU.”