Opportunities for animal welfare within the review of the CAP

On 18/05/2017, in All posts, by Animal Welfare Intergroup

The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has been successful in sustaining European agriculture, but has, along with global trends and competition within the agricultural market, encouraged the intensification of animal production, at the expense of animal welfare. This negative impact on animals has led to an increasing use of production systems where animals are confined to unnatural spaces with reduced or no access to green pasture. Despite the fact that there are specific instruments within the CAP that could be used to improve animal welfare, the concrete benefits are still disappointing.

On Thursday 18 May, the Intergroup discussed the CAP following the recent closure of the Commission public consultation on the future of the policy. The consultation received a very large number and variety of submissions, among which several focused on animal welfare. The findings of the consultation will hopefully be built into a Commission Communication on the modernisation and simplification of the CAP, which is planned to be published by the end of 2017.

Martin HAUSLING – 8th Parliamentary term

Martin Häusling MEP (Greens/EFA, DE) gave a presentation on how the CAP currently promotes animal welfare. Producer aid under the CAP is linked to compliance with animal welfare standards. Farmers who fail to do so will be at risk of losing all or part of this aid. The CAP also provides for grants to farmers who invest in the improvement of their housing systems and there are financial incentives for livestock farmers who go beyond the minimum standards laid down by Community law in the field of animal welfare.

Martin Häusling said “Despite these measures, the CAP has not contributed to significantly improve the welfare of animals. Only a very small percentage of the yearly CAP spending is effectively dedicated to animal welfare. An animal husbandry which meets the species specific needs of animals would make sense both from the ethical and socio-economic point of view. Higher animal welfare standards can bring a competitive advantage since European consumers are generally willing to pay more for meat, milk or eggs from high quality produce. The boom of organic products is the best evidence for this’’.

Francesca Porta, Programme Officer for farm animals at Eurogroup for Animals presented the opportunities for animal welfare within the review of the CAP. She said, “the current CAP is not delivering according to its objectives and there is evidence that its subsidies have been used to build facilities which have deteriorated the welfare of animals. This is the moment for the European Parliament to stand up for a new CAP that can effectively improve the welfare of animals in the EU”.

As measures for change, Francesca proposed a shift of Pillar I payments to Pillar II payments to ensure that a higher percentage of the CAP budget will be devoted to improving animal housing systems and management practices. This would mean dedicated funding for animal welfare under the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and a redirection of direct payments only to Research an Innovation activities. A maximum ceiling for payments should be introduced to stop the promotion of intensive livestock farming. Small and semi-subsistence farms should also be able to get subsidies with a system of digressive payments per hectare. This would also serve as a tool to contain the expansion of farms. Cross compliance should encompass all species specific farm animal welfare legislation including the directives on laying hens and broilers. There should be no exemptions from cross compliance for small farmers and generally the effectiveness of cross compliance should be improved with inspection and punitive measures such as stopping CAP payments for non-compliant farmers.

As far as Pillar II payments are concerned, they should be given only to programmes that bring effective benefits to the welfare of animals and contribute to environmental protection. Animal welfare must become a compulsory part of the national strategic plans on rural development and in the Rural Development Plans itself. The required minimum spending on animal welfare under the Rural Development Fund (RDF) should be set at least at 5 percent.  An EU wide programme must help the member states to set up under their RDPs and exchange experience and best practice. The CAP should require specific reporting systems from the member states to specify in detail the improved animal welfare outcomes from upgraded standards. Support should only be given to farmers who apply animal welfare that goes beyond legal minimum requirements. Finally, the bureaucracy should be simplified to encourage also small farmers to apply for CAP funding.

The presentations were followed by a lively debate which clearly showed a broad support for the proposed measures. Stefan Eck MEP (GUE/NGL, DE) who moderated the meeting concluded by saying “it is high time that Common Agricultural Policy takes animal welfare seriously into account. Otherwise Article 13 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union is not worth the paper it’s written on.”



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