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Will the Parliament vote accordingly on 12 October?

Although in principle, organic farming is supposed to meet high standards of animal welfare, the reality is that high standards are not always being applied in practice. The problem is directly linked to EU organic legislation, which contains contradicting provisions and rules that may allow for painful practices like mutilations and tethering of animals as well as long distance live animal transport. There is also no assurance that the most humane slaughter methods are being applied to all organic animals. This month, the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee will agree on its position concerning the future of organic farming in the EU. The vote, which is set to take place on 12 October, is crucially important for the future of animal welfare in organic farming and production. It is also extremely significant for maintaining consumer trust in organic animal products.

It is time for change”, said Reineke Hameleers, Director of Eurogroup for Animals. “European consumers who overwhelmingly care about animals should be able to trust that the organic milk and dairy products they pay a premium for actually come from systems that meet high animal welfare standards. Mutilations, including surgical castration, which is avoidable but often painfully carried out on organic farms in some member states, is not high welfare; nor is restricting the free movement of cattle and transporting animals long distances. No assurance of appropriate pre-stunning at the slaughterhouse is also not high welfare. This situation, whilst not inherent of all organic farms, is the reality today for some organic farms, and it is simply abhorrent that the EU institutions are not taking more action.”

Speaking on behalf of Compassion in World Farming, Olga Kikou, European Affairs Manager, said “The Parliament should ban these poor practices. Mutilations, tethering and long distance transport do not belong in organic farming, which is meant to meet high animal welfare and environmental standards. As proposed by the Environment Committee in its own Opinion on Organic Farming[1], the Agriculture Committee should also propose to restrict live animal transport to a maximum of 8 hours for mammals, 4 hours for poultry, and 6 hours for aquaculture animals. Appropriate and humane pre-stunning should be compulsory for all organic animals at time of slaughter. Well defined rules for humane slaughter should be set in the regulation for each species.

Unfortunately, not enough is being done to stop mutilations on organic farms and to tackle live transport. Not only do these practices contradict organic principles, but alternatives exist. In some instances, conventional farms may even be outperforming organic farms. If organic farmers do not do more to quickly and clearly ban mutilations and restrict live animal transport, organic farming actually runs the risk of falling behind, when it should be leading the way towards farming methods that truly respect animal sentience. It is doubly worrisome that adequate pain relief is not even guaranteed in the existing and proposed rules for surgical operations.

The European Commission’s proposal for a new EU legal framework on organic farming offers an important opportunity for Members of the European Parliament to improve animal welfare in farming.  But will they grasp this opportunity? Animal advocates are jointly calling on the Parliament to take action now to grasp this opportunity to put animal welfare principles into practices, before false perceptions meet the sad reality.

Together we call on the Parliament to:

  • ensure appropriate outdoor access for all livestock and ban the tethering of livestock on small holdings
  • stop mutilations, including pig castration. (In the meantime, any surgical intervention must only be carried out if truly needed for individual animals for health reasons and conducted with appropriate general anaesthesia and analgesia)
  • limit duration of transport to a maximum of 8 hours for mammals, 4 hours for poultry, and 6 hours for aquaculture animals. Animals must always be slaughtered as close as possible to their point of production
  • require appropriate pre-stunning of animals before slaughter without exemption and provide for the adoption of detailed standards for humane slaughter.

 

The European Parliament has an obligation to act on behalf of its citizens to build and maintain consumer trust in organic animal products. The vote in the Agriculture Committee is the next major step of a much larger battle, but MEPs must now send a strong signal to the European Commission and Council, to let them know that change is on the way.

 

[1] http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-%2f%2fEP%2f%2fNONSGML%2bCOMPARL%2bPE-549.119%2b02%2bDOC%2bPDF%2bV0%2f%2fEN

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