Commissioner Wojciechowski shared the Intergroup’s concerns in relation to animal welfare requiring additional attention under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The Commissioner considered it a joint success that animal welfare measures had been included as a measure under the eco schemes, which covers 25% of the CAP budget. He however agreed that, under the new CAP, additional funding will be needed for farmers to improve their animal welfare standards. Particularly in light of the new standards which will be introduced under the upcoming EU animal welfare legislative proposals.
MEPs were very keen to ask the Commissioner many questions in relation to his portfolio and a large part of the debate was centred around issues concerning the trade of animals for agricultural purposes with countries outside of the EU. Many MEPs of the animal welfare intergroup, Annika Bruna (ID, FR) and Thomas Waitz (the Greens/EFA, AT) to name but a few, expressed concern that animal welfare standards on imported products should be the same as the standards in the European Union.
Commissioner Wojciechowski fully agreed with their concern and ensured that this is what the Commission endeavours to achieve when entering negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement with a third country. Nonetheless, the Commissioner noted that the European Union wants to provide good market access to third countries in order to remain a competitive trading partner, and therefore the strict standards have not been able to be met in all cases. The Commissioner referred to the Mercosur agreement as an example. It should be noted however that the European Parliament in a previous resolution rejected the Mercosur agreement as it currently stands. Therefore the question was left open as to whether the new animal welfare proposals, under the remit of Commissioner Stella Kyrakides, will contain a provision ensuring that in future, the same standards on imported products will apply.
Another animal welfare issue which falls under Commissioner Wojciechowski is force feeding of ducks and geese. Christophe Marie, spokesperson for the Foundation Brigitte Bardot, asked the Commissioner whether the Commission will delete the minimum liver weight requirements for foie gras production of ducks and geese in the upcoming delegated act on marketing standards for poultry meat. This would ensure that force feeding of ducks and geese would end, reflecting the view of thousands of citizens and many MEPs, and putting an end to a cruel practice which has been banned in most European Union countries. The Commissioner noted that force feeding is already banned in his home country Poland, however it is unclear still whether he will use his political will to put an end to it at EU level.
The session closed toasting to 40 years of the Animal Welfare Intergroup, first founded in 1983 and chaired by Stanley Johnson, who was an MEP for the Conservative party for the UK at that time.
The next Intergroup meeting will take place on 13 July and will concern animal welfare in the political manifestos for the 2024 European Elections.