Elena Nalon, Sr Veterinary Adviser at Eurogroup for Animals, presented the opportunities offered by the recently published EU Farm to Fork Strategy as concerns farmed animal welfare. She explained that the text of the strategy contains many promising elements on which MEPs can work to ensure that the welfare of farmed animals is substantially improved. Very importantly, farmed animal welfare is recognised in the strategy as being central to reduce reliance on the excessive use of veterinary medications, to protect human health and help preserve biodiversity. Additionally, there is a recognition that European citizens want systemic change for animals. Concretely, the most striking opportunities concern the specific revisions of the slaughter and transport regulations, the reopening of all farmed animal welfare legislation, the inclusion of fish welfare as an important component of any policy revision, and the role of the CAP in facilitating a transition towards a truly sustainable model of agriculture. Ending long-distance live animal transport, slaughter without stunning, the use of high-concentration CO2 stunning for pigs and phasing out all caged farming systems are some of the calls that MEPs could include in their own initiative report on the strategy. Other important calls are for the better inclusion of fish welfare provisions in any new animal welfare policy and stronger language on animal welfare in trade deals. Some improvements in the CAP, such as the mandatory inclusion of financial measures to improve farmed animal welfare in rural development programmes, could greatly contribute to supporting farmers in a transition towards a new and more sustainable model for EU agriculture. MEPs should also be vigilant in ensuring that the concept of sustainability will always incorporate animal welfare at its core.
Andrea Gavinelli, Head of Unit at the DG SANTE, European Commission gave a presentation about animal welfare within the EU Farm to Fork Strategy. He spoke about the planned revision of existing animal welfare legislation, including on animal transport and slaughter of animals and stressed that this would be necessary to align the EU legislation to the latest scientific evidence. Moreover, broadening the scope, would make it easier to enforce and ultimately ensure a higher level of animal welfare.
In 2024 we will see a proposal for a sustainable food labelling framework to empower consumers to make sustainable food choices. In this context animal welfare labelling could contribute to the objective of the Farm to Fork strategy and empower consumers to make sustainable food choices.
The presentations were followed by a lively debate with MEPs who made statements or raised questions to the speakers.
The second part of the meeting was dedicated to a discussion about the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030.
Ilaria Di Silvestre, Wildlife Programme Leader at Eurogroup for Animals, summarised some of the most promising elements included in the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030. The Strategy will keep existing environmental policies strong and stimulate enforcement and implementation of the EU Birds and Habitats Directives, with ambitious goals in terms of conservation status of protected European species. Importantly, the Strategy is planning to bring nature back to agricultural land and to strictly protect 10% of the EU land and sea. This could be the beginning of a transformative change of the way we treat nature, paving the way towards a non-consumptive use of biodiversity.
However, the Strategy is missing a clear commitment to promptly adopt an EU ban on ivory trade, a post-2020 EU Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking and a better regulation of the legal trade on wild animals. Particularly, the trade in exotic pets is posing several risks to human and animal health and to biodiversity, while seriously affecting the welfare of the animals. The implementation of the Biodiversity Strategy should include the adoption of an EU Positive List for exotic pets, specifying which animal species are suitable and safe to be kept as pets subject to strict criteria. Such an instrument would offer a much-needed precautionary approach, given the continuous shifts in species and numbers of animals in trade, and would be coherent with the “Do no harm” principle promoted in the strategy. Please include your part here
Humberto Delgado Rosa, Director of DG ENV.D, European Commission presented the key elements of the EU Biodiversity Strategy and highlighted that it has set very ambitious goals such as protecting 30% of EU land and sea and to strictly protect a third of these areas. Specific focus will also be set on restoring nature with a set of initiatives like legally binding targets to be proposed in 2021 or 25% of the agricultural land to be dedicated to organic farming and a 50% reduction in the use of pesticides. Regarding invasive alien species the Strategy aims to half the number on the red list.
After the presentations the debate with MEPs touched issues like the rather long timelines for introducing changes, or questions related to the post-2020 EU Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking, a full ban on the ivory trade as well as the need for a better regulation of the exotic pet trade. Matthias Leonhard Maier, Team Leader for CITES & wildlife trade regulation at DG ENV replied to the questions related to wildlife trade and raised his general concerns about complete bans as asked for the ivory trade. He also questioned whether it would be of added value to have additional legislation regarding the exotic pet trade taking into account the already existing EU CITES Regulation.
In her concluding remarks the Anja Hazekamp, President of the Animal Welfare Intergroup appealed for a constructive cooperation on the upcoming Parliamentary own initiative reports on the EU Farm to Fork Strategy and the Biodiversity Strategy allowing among others a comprehensive inclusion of animal welfare and conservation related concerns.
Here is the link to the recording of the meeting.