Vested interests versus ‘livestock-bashing? European Parliament comes under fire for watered-down animal welfare ambition

This week, the European Parliament voted to back a report by its Agriculture Committee (AGRI) addressing on-farm animal welfare standards, with a majority of 72% voting in favor of the text.

The report looked at the implementation of EU legislation on the welfare of food-producing animals. It supported changes the Commission is making to revise animal welfare legislation by 2023, including new requirements on transport and slaughter. Some uncontroversial calls were made around the need to shorten nutrition supply chains and the ‘End the Cage Age’ European Citizens Initiative was noted (the European Commission having already committed to banning caged farming by 2027).

The majority of the conclusions and recommendations, however, concentrated on the financial wellbeing of livestock farmers. The document focused on the ‘strides’ made by the livestock sector to boost welfare and said that financial support, via an EU-level framework, should be put in place to aid further efforts. The text stressed that any improvement to animal welfare comes at a cost to farmers, stating ‘additional public aid or a clear return on investment from the market must be set out, otherwise the rise in production costs will impede or prevent farmers from investing in animal welfare’. It suggested that improved standards therefore need to ‘take place gradually and in a responsible manner’.

In short, according to both animal welfare advocates and farming lobbies, the document is a vote of confidence in Europe’s current livestock farming practices. This is where agreement between the two camps ends.


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