Exchange of Views with EU Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski

3 May 2022
Today the EU Commissioner for Agriculture, Janusz Wojciechowski joined the Intergroup for an exchange of views on various issues that are within his remit, that have an impact on the welfare of animals.

Mr Wojciechowski was formerly a president of the Intergroup on Animal Welfare and it was with great pleasure that the members welcomed him back in Strasbourg today. He discussed topics such as the national strategic plans under the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the Farm to Fork Strategy, the impact of the Ukraine crisis on food security, and other issues such as foie gras, horse meat, turkeys and cultivated meat.  

Going into detail on the new CAP, he informed MEPs that twenty one Member States have now received their observational responses from the Commission concerning their national strategic plans. The strategic plans are expected to be adopted by the end of June. Sixteen Member States have provided animal welfare interventions under rural developments and the majority is to provide more space to the animals. However, Mr Wojciechowski noted that a lot of the commitments from Member States have been modest and he would like them to describe how their proposed actions go beyond standard practices. 

The first MEP to intervene was Thomas Waitz (Greens/EFA, AT) who stated that standards on imported products should match those of the EU. He asked the Commissioner where he sees the prospects of raising welfare standards on imported products. The Commissioner  welcomed the question, nonetheless noted that these issues must be dealt with in Free Trade Agreements.

MEP Anja Hazekamp (The Left/GUE, NL) was also quick to take the floor, promoting the Report on an EU Action Plan for Organic Agriculture that was adopted today in plenary. She highlighted the need for a minimum of 25% of EU Agriculture to be organic farming by 2030, and challenged the Commissioner to ensure sustainability goals in line with the Farm to Fork Strategy and the Green Deal are met. Wojciechowski stressed that we must align our food systems so that the farm to fork path is as short as possible, stating that transporting live animals over large distances is not the way forward. It is very difficult to ensure the conditions are safe for animals, he also noted, it is a major economic loss. Therefore highlighting the need to focus on local food production. 

Responding to MEP Niels Fuglsang (S&D, DK), the Commissioner was very interested in the concept of having a Commissioner with “Animal Welfare” in their title. This is currently supported by 125 MEPs, with the idea that it would be added to the title of the Commissioner for Health and Food Safety. Wojciechowski stressed that animal welfare is certainly a key priority of the Commission.  

A recurring topic raised by a number of MEPs and also commented on by the Commissioner, is the recent citizens initiative to End the Cage Age. This initiative received 1.4 million signatures and was responded to by the European Commission that committed to producing a proposal to end caged farming in the EU by 2023 and for a full phasing out to be completed by 2027. Mr Wojciechowski informed MEPs that the Commission is prepared to assist farmers in making this transition via tools such as the national strategic plans under the new CAP. 

When asked about the EU marketing standards for foie gras production that impose minimum liver weights that defecto require to force feed ducks and geese, the Commissioner stated that the Commission is open to the idea of changing the standards. MEP Petras Auštrevičius (Renew, LT) gave a very simple solution: delete the requirement of minimum liver weights and replace it with maximum liver weights, aimed to avoid force-feeding. 

Before the session came to an end, there was a very brief discussion on the concept of cultivated meat. This is a sustainable and novel cellular agriculture that produces meat from animal cells. Once it has been approved by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), it could close the gap between the amount of animal products that can be sustainably produced and the current demand. The Commissioner responded to this idea with the fact that it is simply not within the Commission’s competence to encourage consumers what to eat. This statement however garnered a very quick response from MEP Anja Hazekamp, who questioned on this basis, whether the Commission should then stop funding EU meat promotion campaigns. 

The exchange of views with the Commissioner was deeply appreciated by all MEPs present and the Intergroup look forward to further discussions with Mr Wojciechowski in the coming months. 

The next Intergroup session will take place on the 9th of June. More information will be coming soon.