Yesterday afternoon, Vytenis Andriukaitis, the EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety,  addressed the Animal Welfare Intergroup on the state-of-play and latest developments on animal welfare (link to his presentation).

His speech was followed by a lively debate with MEPs.

Sirpa Pietikäinen MEP (EPP, FI), President of the Intergroup complimented the Commissioner on having almost finalised the Animal Welfare Strategy for 2012-2015 and called on him to introduce on a new EU Animal Welfare Strategy for the coming years including new legislative proposals as already requested by a related Parliament motion for resolution in 2015 . Commissioner Andriukaitis replied that this will be considered in the course of 2018. However, he stressed that staff resources at DG SANTE are very limited and so also the possibility to enhance the animal welfare related policy work.

Sirpa Pietikäinen requested also from the Commissioner to reveal the outcome of a preparatory work on an EU Animal Welfare Framework Law.

Pavel Poc (S&D, CZ), Honorary President of the Intergroup, raised a question about live animal transport and the EP resolution of 2012 on the protection of animals during transport recommending an 8 hour journey limit for animals transported for the purpose of being slaughtered. This was followed by a question of Anja Hazekamp (GUE/NGL, NL), Vice-President of the Intergroup, on the application of Council Regulation EC 1/2005 outside EU’s borders. The European Court of Justice ruled twice that the EU Regulation should be respected in Third Countries. However this is currently not the case. Also Jan Huitema (ALDE, NL) expressed his concern about the proper implementation of the Animal Transport Regulation and flagged that the EU should promote the transport of chilled meat instead of live animals. He added that the EU should be alert on animal health risks associated with live transport.

Commissioner Andriukaitis replied by saying that the European Commission has been investing a lot in better enforcement through the recently published Animal Transport Guidelines and audits (also at the Bulgaria-Turkey border) but that a journey time limit is not being envisaged. He indicated that he intended to visit Turkey next year to discuss the lack of compliance with the Turkish authorities.

Jan Huitema also asked Commissioner Andriukaitis how the European Declaration on alternatives to surgical castration of pigs will be continued as the set deadline of 1 January 2018 won’t be met and progress is still lacking.

The Commissioner replied that the topic of piglet castration should be included in the terms of reference of the new pig welfare sub-group under the EU Platform on Animal Welfare. Additionally, the Commission is still facilitating the work of the EU piglet castration declaration export group but is not responsible to carry out the work. Moreover, next year the pilot project on the promotion of alternatives for piglet castration will start.

John Flack (ECR, UK) asked the Commissioner whether he is intending to introduce dedicated legislation on fish welfare following the EC’s report on the transport and slaughter of fish. The Commissioner responded that based on the reports they believe the situation is not dramatic and subsequently they don’t see the need to introduce new legislation on fish welfare.

Stefan Eck (GUE/NGL, DE), Vice-President of the Intergroup, stressed on the importance of introducing higher welfare guidelines for broiler chickens as well a legislative proposal on minimum standards for the protection of farmed rabbits. He informed the audience that thanks to his campaigning efforts rabbit farming has dropped in several EU countries and called the Commissioner to protect rabbits and farmers alike by introducing legislation. The Commissioner complimented the work of Stefan Eck and indicated he would come back to the issue of rabbit legislation in the course of 2018.

Pascal Durand (Greens/EFA, FR), Vice-President of the Intergroup, raised the issue of painful piglet castration and the need to allow valid alternatives in organic farming. Commissioner Andriukaitis promised to inquire with Commissioner Hogan on the latest state of play and revert back to the Intergroup


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