BRUSSELS—Today the European Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development adopted its report on the welfare of animals on-farm. While disappointingly weak—and lamentably making some misleading statements regarding animal welfare—the report is still a considerable improvement on the poor draft delivered by French liberal MEP and meat cattle breeder Jérémy Decerle.
Dr Joanna Swabe, senior director of public affairs for Humane Society International/Europe, noted:
“It is astonishing that while most EU citizens, animal welfare scientists and even the European Commission have recognised the urgent need to improve farm animal welfare, a majority of the Parliament’s AGRI Committee members are so out of touch with welfare conditions on many EU farms. It beggars belief that AGRI MEPs endorsed the fallacious claim that “no reliable solutions whatsoever have been found thus far for the problem of tail-biting in pigs”, while the truth is that both Finland and Sweden have long implemented a full ban on routine tail-docking and sought to address the challenge of tail-biting through proper environmental enrichments, something that the Pigs Directive already demands. When it comes to animal welfare, the European Parliament really needs to resist the determined efforts of economic interests to undermine and impede the measures sorely needed to advance animal welfare. What we are asking for, and what the public supports is substantiated by hard science”.
HSI/Europe observed that Decerle’s draft focused disproportionately on the efforts and welfare of farmers, rather than critically addressing the failures of Member States to ensure that the existing legislation is properly implemented and enforced. The report also gives short shrift to the urgent need to update and bring existing animal welfare standards into line with current scientific understandings of the welfare needs of animals kept for production purposes.
The AGRI Committee’s report stands in stark contrast to the progressive and balanced opinion on on-farm welfare adopted by the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety on 13 October 2021. This dramatic difference in approach raises the question of whether the responsibility for decision-making on animal welfare matters should be shifted to the ENVI committee where there are fewer conflicts of interest, for example with respect to MEPs having income derived from farming.
This report on on-farm animal welfare is due to be voted on in the Parliament’s November Plenary session. HSI/Europe will be urging MEPs to considerably strengthen the text to properly reflect both societal and scientific opinion with respect to improving animal welfare.