European Court of Auditors’ report highlights Member State failings on farm animal welfare

Humane Society International

BRUSSELS — A new report published by the European Court of Auditors highlights the failings of EU Member States to properly implement EU animal welfare legislation and guidelines issued by the European Commission. While the ECA report acknowledges Member State successes in achieving compliance with regard to the implementation of group housing for sows and the eradication of barren battery cages for laying hens, it also identifies important shortcomings in Member State compliance with farm animal welfare rules, particularly with regard to routine tail-docking in pigs, long-distance animal transport and stunning at slaughter, and questions the slow pace of implementation.

Ruud Tombrock, executive director for Humane Society International/Europe, said: “HSI/Europe warmly welcomes the European Court of Auditors’ initiative to place the implementation of farm animal welfare legislation by Member States under close scrutiny. This is an important wake-up call. The European Commission’s own audits have revealed a shocking and near total lack of commercial pig industry compliance with the ban on routine tail-docking. The ECA report provides a salutary reminder that EU Member States must not drag their heels on animal welfare and – at a minimum – follow the letter of the law.

“In the EU, we see ourselves as a guiding light on animal welfare and encourage our trading partners elsewhere around the globe to follow our example. Yet failing to effectively implement and enforce our own animal welfare legislation potentially weakens our position in trade negotiations with other parties. Why should they take animal welfare seriously, if the EU does not seem to do so?”

On the occasion of its presentation, Janusz Wojciechowski, the European Court of Auditor Member responsible for the report, stated: “I am convinced that in farming the European Union has a chance to win on quality, and not on quantity. Policymakers should decide if intensive farming really should be our future. Systems that are more extensive and which enable farmers to produce high-quality meat and dairy products will help to meet increasing demands for these products in and outside the EU. Animal welfare should in our opinion be an integral part of that quality.”

The European Court of Auditors’ report provides concrete recommendations and a clear timeline for closing the gap between the EU’s past animal welfare goals and their practical implementation. The European Commission has already responded to the publication of the ECA report by saying that it will evaluate its animal welfare strategy as a result of the findings.

Humane Society International/Europe will be closely following this process. However, HSI would like to also see the Commission go one step further and deliver an ambitious new EU animal welfare strategy to set down clear and concrete lines of action for farm animal welfare for the 2019-2022 period.


  • The special report 31/2018 “Animal welfare in the EU: closing the gap between ambitious goals and practical implementation” is available on the ECA website here.
  • The European Court of Auditors is the EU institution for auditing the EU’s finances. One aspect of the report addresses cross-compliance in the context of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy. CAP payments are linked to compliance with minimum requirements and there are (underutilised) incentives to farmers to pursue higher animal welfare standards through financial support granted under the EU’s rural development policy.
  • In 2006, the Commission adopted the Community Action Plan on the Protection and Welfare of Animals 2006-2010, which set down the strategic basis for EU animal welfare policy. This was followed up by the EU Strategy for the Protection and Welfare of Animals 2012-2015. Three years on, all the planned actions have finally been completed, yet no new animal welfare strategy has been forthcoming.

Media contact: Wendy Higgins, International Media Director, +44 (0)7989 972 423,