The 341st session of the Intergroup on 26 October was dedicated to to the welfare of equidae and saw the launch of a new working group of the Intergroup on cage free farming .

For the first time ever the Intergroup debated about the welfare of dairy donkeys. The demand for donkey milk, known for its unique properties, has considerably increased over the last decade, leading to a growing number of dairy donkey farms in Europe. This has raised some concerns for the welfare of these animals. Dr Michela Minero and Dr Francesca Dai, two researchers from the University of Milan presented this issue.

In collaboration with The Donkey Sanctuary, an organisation dedicated to improve the quality of life for donkeys, mules and people worldwide, Dr Minero, Dr Dai and other researchers from the University of Milan coordinated a stakeholder platform with representatives from public authorities, civil society, farmers, industry and academics which led to the development of guidelines for good animal management practices in donkey milk production.

The new guidelines which were presented during the meeting are designed to provide clear and helpful advice on good animal management practices for sustainable donkey milk production and recommend practical solutions for their implementation. They will be available in English, Italian, Mandarin Chinese, Greek, French, Spanish and Portuguese.

The second item of debate was presented by Roly Owers, Chief Executive of the World Horse Welfare who spoke about the actions taken in the recent months to raise the welfare standards in the European equine industry and fulfil the objectives outlined in the EP own initiative report on responsible ownership and care of equidae (OIR) which was adopted early this year.

Different stakeholders have been very active and have taken on board recommendations from the own initiative report. For example, the European Horse Network (EHN) has established a legal working group which amongst other issues deals as well with the question of responsible ownership. Further on, there was a constructive discussion amongst leading equine stakeholders in Europe outlining the need for responsible practices in tourist industry.

The French Horse and Riding Institute (IFCE) has produced an updated analysis of the legislation on the equine sector at EU and national level which will be very useful when trying to identify and tackle legal gaps in the sector.

The World Horse Welfare has been closely collaborating with other sister charities to promote a chapter for Responsible Ownership and care of equidae at different OIE workshops in Europe and was satisfied with the preliminary feedback.

On the issue of  transport, the European Commission has entrusted the Federation of Veterinarian of Europe (FVE) to take a lead in producing best practices for the transport of animals. They are now available at the project website. This will help European transporters to be acquainted in practical and theoretical terms with best practices for transport. A major step forward is as well the translation of the Practical Guidelines to Assess Fitness for Transport of Equidae into all EU languages. They will be available in the next few weeks.

A challenge for the next future will be to make sure that the horse breeding sector is adequately taken into account in the  CAP  2020-2024 by highlighting its “green assets” as well as its benefits. For this reason, the European Horse Network is engaged in a dialogue with a unit of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), to conduct a study on “green assets “of the equine industry.

The World Horse welfare is the only equine organisation with a seat in EU platform on animal welfare. The platform will hopefully provide a window of opportunity to discuss equine related issues in the coming two years.

The two presentations where followed by an exchange of views with MEPs.

At the end of the meeting Stefan Eck MEP (GUE/NGL, DE) and Eleonora Evi (EFD², IT) launched a new working group of the Intergroup on cage free farming. Both MEPs will chair this working group. Its other members are: Petras Auštrevičius (ALDE, LT), Georges Bach (EPP, LU), Isabella De Monte (S&D, IT), John Flack (ECR, UK), Karlsson Rikke (ECR, DK), Florent Marcellesi (Greens/EFA, ES), Marisa Matias (GUE/NGL, PT), Maria Noichl (S&D, DE), Sirpa Pietikäinen (EPP, FI), Michèle Rivasi (Greens/EFA, FR), Keith Taylor (Greens/EFA, UK) and Josef Weidenholzer (S&D, AT). Olga Kikou from Compassion in World Farming will be in charge of coordinating and running the working group.

Olga Kikou presented the work programme of the new group whose overall aim is to phase out and to end the use of cages in EU farming and to propose alternatives that are better adapted to species specific needs. The benefit is to spare animals a life of suffering in a cage. Yearly, up to 700 million farm animals in Europe are being farmed in cages.

A problem of this scale needs an ambitious response and through support for a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) the working group aims to see a whole continent making a stand against cruel caged systems.

The launch of the ECI will take place on 25th September 2018 and will be linked to a conference and exhibition on “END THE CAGE AGE” which will be hosted by Eleonora Evi MEP and Compassion in World Farming. In addition, related events will be held in many Member States with the support of MEPs and national NGOs. Meanwhile the working group will prepare the ground for this.


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