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On Thursday 13th December, the Intergroup on the Welfare and Conservation of Animals held a debate with Janusz Wojciechowski, Member of the European Court of Auditors (ECA), and Vytenis Andriukaitis, EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety.

 Janusz Wojciechowski presented the recent European Court of Auditors’ special report on animal welfare in the EU: closing the gap between ambitious goals and practical implementation   It is the first time that ECA has dedicated a full report to animal welfare. The audit is based on assessments which were carried out in Germany, France, Italy, Poland, and Romania. Together, these countries account for more than the half of the EU meat market.

Mr Wojciechowski stressed that EU actions to improve animal welfare were successful in some areas, but there are still weaknesses in compliance with minimum standards set by EU legislation.

As far as concerns the use of Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) money there is room to improve coordination with cross-compliance checks. The financial resources of the CAP could be better used to promote higher animal welfare standards. The CAP offers funding opportunities for animal welfare but they are scarcely used, despite the ever-growing demand of EU citizens to improve the welfare of farmed animals.

The report specifically points also at the compliance issues in regard of routine tail docking of pigs, live transport, and slaughter.

The European Court of Auditors (ECA) recommends the European Commission to evaluate the EU animal welfare strategy 2012-2015 and to reflect on how to address the conclusions, for example, through the review of animal welfare legislation. It also stresses on the need to develop enforcement strategies aimed at reducing the time of implementation of Commission’s recommendations.

 Commissioner Andriukaitis gave a speech about the Commission’s achievements in the field of animal welfare policy and ongoing developments. He stressed that the Commission’s number one priority is and will remain enforcement of existing EU animal welfare legislation. He addressed in particular the efforts made for the enforcement of the EU Animal Transport Regulation, the Pigs Directive and the Broilers Directive and listed the Commission’s activities in the fields of pet and fish welfare.

The Commission has completed all actions under the Animal Welfare Strategy, 2012-2015 and has facilitated the creation of the EU Platform on animal welfare, which is now fully operational and an efficient tool to bring stakeholders together enabling them to support and complement the work of the Commission.

An EU Reference Centre on pig welfare has recently begun its work providing scientific, technical and educational support to improve official controls. A second centre will be designated by mid-2019 to focus on the welfare of rabbits, poultry and fur animals.

The Commission has also consolidated its international activities. Thanks to the Commission’s support the World Organisation for Animal Health has adopted new international standards on animal welfare.

By the end of this year, the Commission will launch its project on Quality Controls and Indicators for Animal Welfare which will look at whether Member States have a strategic approach to enforcing EU requirements for animal welfare on-farm.

Following the European Court of Auditors recommendation on animal welfare, the Commission will launch an evaluation of the Animal Welfare Strategy in 2019. This will be probably the biggest project for the next future. The outcome of this evaluation will enable the next Commission to consider possible future activities.

The two presentations were followed by a debate  with MEPs  which addressed among others the Parliament’s repeated calls for an EU framework law on animal welfare as well as the still severe problems of live animal transport to third countries, slaughter without stunning and the welfare of fur animals. In this regard several MEPs criticized the Commission’s recent intentions to include the welfare of fur animals in the scope of the planned second EU Reference Centre on animal welfare. The MEPs Sirpa Pietikäinen , Anja Hazekamp and Pascal Durand stressed that the breeding of animals for the purpose of fur production is a highly contentious issue causing the suffering and killing of animals for a non-essential and even trivial reason. They were puzzled why  the Commission intends to spend EU taxpayers’ money  for an EU initiative that would give legitimacy to a cruel industry whose existence the majority of citizens consider unacceptable.

Group photo with Commissioner Andriukaitis  holding Compassion in World Farming’s Christmas cards

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