Humane Society International / Europe

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Brussels Yesterday, the European Parliament voted in favour of a retrograde report from its Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development on the implementation of on-farm animal welfare, disregarding science and uncritically supporting the continuation of intensive animal agriculture, particularly if animal welfare improvements would be accompanied with financial costs.  

Humane Society International/Europe’s senior director of public affairs, Dr Joanna Swabe, issued the following statement after the Plenary vote:  

“It is lamentable that a majority of MEPs followed the position taken by their AGRI committee colleagues, many of whom have vested economic interests in farming. The foxes are effectively in charge of the henhouse. From the outset, allowing producers to carry on with business as usual took precedence over improving the welfare conditions under which billions of sentient animals are intensively kept for food production. Worse still, the report’s claims that there are no reliable solutions to tail-biting in pigs – and that all is well with the welfare of force-fed ducks and geese – fly in the face of animal welfare science.  

“None of this bodes well for the future revision of the EU animal welfare acquis. While we anticipate that the Commission will deliver a progressive proposal in 2023, there is likely to be a major battle ahead to ensure that this is not diluted by those whose sole interest is maintaining the status quo.”   

Nearly 1.4 million EU citizens signed the recent European Citizens’ Initiative to End the Cage Age for farmed animals. It is vital that Members of the European Parliament, as well as EU Member State governments, pay heed to their calls and take decisions that are not at odds with societal attitudes towards animal welfare. It does not help that Member States are already failing to adequately enforce the existing and now outdated body of EU animal welfare legislation. 

Humane Society International will continue to push for meaningful changes to improve the lives of animals kept for food production in the EU. This includes an end to caged confinement for farmed animals and the development of welfare standards for species for which there is presently no species-specific legislation.  The farming industry itself has the highest possible stake in the adoption of stronger welfare standards during this legislative revision process. In the end, this approach will futureproof the farming industry. If farmers must make additional investments, then it must be in systems that will still be viable, from an animal welfare science perspective, in the coming decades.  

Background information 

  • In 2020, in the framework of its Farm to Fork Strategy, the European Commission committed to revising and broadening the scope of the existing animal welfare legislation, also bringing it in line with current scientific knowledge. It is expected to deliver its legislative proposal, including a ban on caged confinement of food animals, in the fourth quarter of 2023. 
  • There were nearly 60,000 responses to a recent Commission consultation on the revision of EU animal welfare legislation. The vast majority of respondents were EU citizens.   
  • The AGRI report was initially drafted by French MEP and cattle breeder Jeremy Decerle (Renew Europe). While marginally improved through amendments at committee stage, the report is weak and compromised by fallacious claims that are not substantiated by animal welfare science. 
  • The report adopted by the AGRI committee included the claim that the fattening process for birds in foie gras production “respects the animals’ biological parameters”. However, it is an undisputed scientific fact that the force-feeding of ducks and geese leads to steatosis of the liver, which causes great suffering and makes it difficult for the birds to walk and breathe normally. In stark contrast, the ENVI Opinion unequivocally calls for a ban on force-feeding.  
  • It also fallaciously claimed that “no reliable solutions whatsoever have been found thus far for the problem of tail-biting in pigs”. Tail-biting occurs in pigs when they do not have a suitable outlet for their natural instinct to investigate their surroundings. The Pigs Directive requires that farmers provide enrichment materials, such as straw, hay, or wood, as well as improve the pigs’ overall housing environment and the farm’s management systems. Finland and Sweden have proved themselves perfectly capable of eliminating tail-docking as a routine practice to prevent tail-biting. However, as DG SANTE audits have illustrated, in most other EU countries 98,5%–100% of pigs are still being tail-docked. Tail-biting persists only because producers are failing to provide adequate levels of environmental enrichment along with the other management practices that would permit them to abandon tail docking. 
  • The AGRI report states that ‘a distinction should be drawn between anecdotal cases of non-compliance… and the vast majority of farmers who follow the rules’. As illustrated by DS SANTE’s audits, non-compliance with EU animal welfare rules is far from anecdotal, but a structural problem in some sectors.   
  • The AGRI report continues to reference the outdated ‘Five Freedoms’ model, whereas – as acknowledged by the ENVI Opinion – the Five Domains Model is the more up-to-date framework used for animal welfare assessment. These domains are: 1) Nutrition, 2) Physical Environment, 3) Health, 4) Behavioural Interactions and 5) Mental State. 
  • Further, the economic implications of animal welfare requirements and the burden this may place on producers, as well as any future mandatory animal welfare labelling, was a key focus of the AGRI report. Impact assessments are deemed necessary before any decisions are taken, which implicitly suggests that economic considerations should take precedence over improvements in animal welfare.  The report notes that all producers should be compliant with existing standards before additional burdens are placed on them and lengthy transition periods would be required to make changes, which is tantamount to ensuring the continuation of poor animal welfare conditions irrespective of current scientific recommendations.

Media contact: Yavor Gechev, +359889468098;

Humane Society International / Europe


BRUSSELS—Last week at a virtual meeting with cabinet representatives of several European Commissioners, Humane Society International handed over a 155,000-strong petition demanding action by the EU executive to phase animal use out of European science and chemical safety regulations. The HSI petition echoes a resolution of the European Parliament from September 2021, which recognised that a pro-active and coordinated approach for full replacement of animals is lacking. That resolution called on the Commission to develop an ambitious, EU-wide action plan with concrete milestones for monitoring progress. 

During the virtual petition hand-over, HSI highlighted several examples of the EU backsliding into animal testing as a default, rather than “only as a last resort” as required by law. For example, a recent Commission proposal to revise chemical information requirements—with the potential to trigger substantial new animal testing for thousands of substances—is being misleadingly characterised as “clarifications only.” HSI has called for this proposal to be scrapped, and for the Commission to suspend new animal testing requested by the European Chemicals Agency for cosmetic ingredients with established safe use histories, pending review of whether such testing satisfies the “last resort” legal requirement.  

Joanna Swabe, senior director of public affairs for HSI/Europe, said: “Nearly 10 million animals are used in experiments in EU laboratories annually and this number has remained relatively unchanged in the last decade. This obvious lack of progress requires a comprehensive plan of action that covers animal use for research as well as chemical safety. As a start, we insist that the European Commission upholds the ban on animal testing for cosmetics by suspending all requests for new animal testing of existing cosmetic ingredients with established safe use histories.”

HSI has also asked the Commission to ensure that upcoming changes to chemical legislation replace “tick-box” animal testing for classification with a modern approach to chemical safety that takes advantage of the latest non-animal scientific tools and approaches. 

In the longer-term, an Action Plan is needed to put the EU on a sustained path to fully end its reliance on animals in biomedical research, toxicology and education. This can be achieved through strategic shifts in science funding and investments in non-animal approaches, modernised regulatory frameworks across product sectors, and other targeted initiatives involving stakeholders.  

Recently conducted opinion polls confirm that EU citizens prioritise ending animal experiments, with nearly three quarters agreeing that the EU should set binding targets and deadlines to phase out testing on animals. The European Citizens’ Initiative Save Cruelty Free Cosmetics – Commit to a Europe without Animal Testing, which has already collected more than 360,000 signatures since its launch in September 2021, also sends a clear message about the public support for an EU without animal experiments. 

Media contact: Wendy Higgins, director of international media in the UK: 

Humane Society International in Italy hails ‘an historic victory’

Humane Society International / Europe

Jo-Anne McArthur/We Animals Media

ROME—The Budget Committee of the Italian Senate today voted to approve a modified version of an amendment to the budget law which will see the country’s 10 remaining mink fur farms closed within six months and a permanent ban on fur farming throughout Italy.  

The vote follows discussions with animal protection organisation Humane Society International/Europe which presented practical, strategic solutions to close and convert fur farms into alternative, humane and sustainable businesses in its recent report “Mink breeding in Italy: Mapping and future perspectives. Although the decision requires final approval by the Parliament, this is expected to go through, making Italy the 16th country in Europe to ban fur farming. Many Italian designers have already gone fur-free including Valentino, Armani, GUCCI, Prada and Versace. 

HSI/Europe’s fur farm conversion proposal, which sought an end to fur farming due to animal cruelty and public health risks from zoonotic diseases, was endorsed by Italian Member of Parliament the Hon. Michela Vittoria Brambilla, who launched the political action to implement the conversion strategy with existing public funds, and Sen. Loredana De Petris who formally submitted the amendment. 

Martina Pluda, director of Humane Society International in Italy, states: ”This is an historic victory for animal protection in Italy, and HSI/Europe is immensely proud that our fur farm conversion strategy has played a central role in dismantling this cruel and dangerous industry in our country. There are very clear economic, environmental, public health and of course animal welfare reasons to close and ban fur farms. Today’s vote recognizes that allowing the mass breeding of wild animals for frivolous fur fashion represents a risk to both animals and people that can’t be justified by the limited economic benefits it offers to a small minority of people involved in this cruel industry. With so many designers, retailers and consumers going fur-free, conversion of fur farms offers people a sustainable future that the fur trade simply cannot provide.” 

The approved amendment includes: 

  • An immediate ban on breeding of fur-bearing animals including mink, foxes, raccoon dogs and chinchillas, and the closure of all active fur farms in Italy by 30th June 2022; 
  • Compensation for farmers, covered by a fund from the Ministry of Agriculture for a total of 3 million euros in 2022.

Hon. Michela Vittoria Brambilla, president of the Parliamentary Intergroup for Animal Rights and of the Italian League for the Defense of Animals and the Environment commented on the vote: ”In thirty years of animal rights battle this is the best victory. Finally, a parliamentary vote sanctions the end of unspeakable suffering inflicted on animals only in the name of profit and vanity. Italy is the twentieth European country to introduce a ban or severe restriction on fur farming: better late than never. Now we await the final approval of the budget law, but the political will has been clearly expressed. A dream comes true that animal protection associations have cultivated for decades in our country. I want to thank all the colleagues of the Intergroup, in particular Vice-President De Petris, who presented the amendment and reported it to the committee, the parliamentarians who shared this choice and the Italian office of Humane Society International which has promoted the economic study whose results formed the ‘basis’ for formulating the proposal. It is a great achievement, which finally all those who love and respect animals rejoice!” 

Download Photos/Video of Mink Fur Farms (in Finland)  


Media contacts: 

Humane Society International / Europe

Simon Eeman/Alamy Stock photo

BRUSSELS—Today, the European Commission has published its long-awaited revision of the EU rules on ivory trade with a goal to end most forms of this trade in the EU. Humane Society International/Europe has campaigned for many years for the EU to tighten its ivory trade regime and close the loopholes which still allowed some trade in ivory. The new rules represent a significant improvement, but still do not go quite far enough.

Dr Joanna Swabe, senior director of public affairs for HSI/Europe, noted:

“While the amendments to Commission Regulation 856/2006 and to the guidance document published today are an important step toward closing the EU’s loopholes on ivory trade, they are not without a fundamental flaw. The trade restrictions on worked ivory are only partially addressed in the Commission Regulation with the remainder being dealt with in the guidance document. Likewise, the restrictions on raw ivory trade are currently only included in the guidance document and therefore are not legally binding on Member States. This could potentially undermine the EU’s efforts to meet its commitments to help protect elephants and global biodiversity. It is also problematic that the trade restrictions do not apply to the trade in ivory derived from other species. It would be advisable to extend the rules to those species to ease enforcement and reduce the risk of elephant ivory being disguised and laundered as other types of ivory.”

Despite the remaining loopholes, these revised rules will put the EU in a better position to advocate for similar measures in key international fora, such as in meetings of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Closing these loopholes would make the EU one of the world leaders on this issue and help prevent elephant population declines and the ongoing global biodiversity crisis.


  • The European Commission has published its amendments to Commission Regulation 856/2006 and to the guidance document on the EU regime governing trade in ivory. This includes:
    • suspending imports of raw ivory to the EU;
    • suspending imports and re-export of worked ivory to the EU (with the exception of pre-1975 musical instruments, and antiques sold to museums);
    • suspending the intra-EU trade of raw ivory (except for the repair of pre-1975 musical instruments or pre-1947 antiques of high cultural, artistic or historical importance);
    • suspending the intra-EU trade of post-1947 worked ivory (with the exception of pre-1975 musical instruments);
    • requiring certificates for intra-EU trade in worked ivory antiques (pre-1947 worked ivory).
  • The following loopholes remain in the EU ivory trade regime:
    • The trade restrictions on worked ivory are only partially addressed in Commission Regulation 865/2006 (with the rest being in the guidance document), and those on raw ivory are currently only included in the guidance document and therefore are not legally binding on Member States. The Commission should introduce a time-bound monitoring system of the implementation of the ivory guidance by Member States and promptly amend it and the Regulation 865/2006 if required.
    • The allowance that antique ivory can be traded within the EU with a certificate is still too broad. A de minimis provision further restricting the issuance of certificates for antique ivory is needed to avoid a flood of applications for certificates that will likely overwhelm authorities, thus increasing the risk of ivory from poached elephants or otherwise obtained illegally being laundered through the system and sold as antique. We urge the Commission to consider applying the de minimis criteria applied by other jurisdictions, which restrict exemptions for antique worked items to those containing less than 5% of ivory by volume and less than 200g of ivory by weight.
    • Exceptions regarding pre-1975 musical instruments should only apply when the volume of ivory in the instrument is less than 20% of the total volume of the material of which the instrument is made.
    • The rules only apply to elephant ivory, which means that elephant ivory could be disguised and laundered as ivory from other species.


Media Contact: Dr Joanna Swabe, senior director of public affairs at Humane Society International/Europe:

Announcement made in collaboration with the Humane Society of the United States, Humane Society International and Creatives for Change

Humane Society International / Europe

Kristo Muurimaa/Oikeutta Elaimille

PARIS —ELLE magazine is proud to announce that it has committed to ending the promotion of animal fur in its pages and online. 

The commitment follows dialogue between ELLE brand owner, Lagardère Group, the Humane Society of the United States, Humane Society International and Creatives4Change. The announcement was made today at Business of Fashion’s 2021 VOICES event in London. 

ELLE created a charter to disallow editorial content that promotes animal fur on its pages, websites and social media. This includes no animal fur in editorials, press images, runway and street style images. The charter, which in alignment with the Fur Free Alliance’s definition of fur, also no longer allows the depiction of animal fur in any advertisements in its pages and online 

All ELLE editions around the world signed it, which includes publications in Arabia (English and Arabic editions), Argentina, Australia, Belgium (Flemish and French editions), Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada (English and French editions), China, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Italy, Ivory Coast, Japan, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, UK, Ukraine, USA and Vietnam 

For 13 of those editions, the charter is already effective, for 20, it will be effective as of Jan. 1, 2022, and for the remaining editions, it will be effective as of Jan. 1, 2023. 

The ELLE network that will be impacted by this announcement includes: 

  • 45 editions worldwide 
  • 21 million readers per month 
  • 6.6 million copies sold per month 
  • 175 million total reach 
  • 46 websites, 100 million unique visitors, 400 million pages viewed and multiple mobile/tablet apps 
  • A website devoted to the international network: 

According to Constance Benqué, CEO Lagardère News and CEO ELLE International“Societal engagement has always been one of the key pillars of the ELLE brand. The world has changed and the end of the use of fur is aligned with the course of History. We hope that, with this commitment, ELLE will open the path for other media to disallow fur promotion, all around the globe, and promote a fur-free future.” 

According to Valéria Bessolo LLopiz, SVP and international director of ELLE: “For many years, ELLE has been engaged towards environment, sustainability and ecology through regular features or special green issues. The presence of animal fur in our pages and on our digital media is no longer in line with our values, nor our readers’. It is time for ELLE to make a statement on this matter, a statement that reflects our attention to the critical issues of protecting and caring for the environment and animals, rejecting animal cruelty. It is also an opportunity for ELLE to increase awareness for animal welfare, bolster the demand for sustainable and innovative alternatives, and foster a more humane fashion industry.” 

Alexi Lubomirski, fashion photographer and founder of Creatives for Change, says: “Since its inception, ELLE magazine has always been a leading light in fashion, synonymous with a freshness, unencumbered by the weight of tradition and formality. Because of this strength, ELLE was said to ‘not so much reflect fashion as decree it.’ It is this creative power to inspire, that allows ELLE to make broad steps in shaping the hearts and minds of its readers for a more evolved and aware future for all.” 

PJ Smith, director of fashion policy for the HSUS and HSI, adds: “We celebrate ELLE for taking a stand against the cruel fur trade and look forward to other fashion magazines following their lead. This announcement will ignite positive change throughout the entire fashion industry and has the potential to save countless animals from a life of suffering and a cruel death. ELLE’s leadership will also drive innovation for more sustainable and humane alternatives.”  


Media Contacts: 

  • Humane Society International: Wendy Higgins, 
  • Lagardère Group: Morgane Rohée, 

Humane Society International / Europe


EUROPE—Humane Society International/Europe is launching an online campaign in the week before Black Friday, 26 November, in Italy, Germany, Poland and Romania, reminding shoppers that fur clothing comes at the cost of extreme cruelty to animals. The organization is asking fashion lovers, designers, retailers and influencers to go fur-free since fashion shouldn’t come at the cost of animal life.

Black Friday, the popular shopping pinnacle, is also an occasion for animal welfare organizations and animal lovers worldwide to draw public attention to the plight of animals kept in farms only for their fur. The Fur-Free Friday movement, which started in the U.S. in the 1980s and went global in the first decade of the 21st century, is now one of the largest international days of action and brings together advocates in hundreds of locations around the world.

“Our Fur-Free Friday campaign aims to bring attention to our daily choices, since cruelty towards animals is often a direct consequence of the choices we make. Small cages, scandalous living conditions, and the cruel death of animals who feel pain, fear, frustration– all this is due to the fashion industry’s demand for animal fur. It’s time to change that. Don’t let this holiday shopping season be deadly for animals. Show designers and retailers you care about animals by leaving fur on the shelves and shopping with compassion instead,” says Pankaj KC, campaigns director for HSI/Europe.

Fur-Free Friday also coincides with the period of the year when the short and miserable lives of millions of animals kept on fur farms will end as they are skinned for their fur. Mink are usually killed by being placed in a mobile gas chamber, while foxes and raccoon dogs are usually killed by anal electrocution. The only animals who will be left alive on fur farms are those individuals who have been selected as breeding stock.

Worldwide, around 100 million animals, such as mink, foxes, raccoon dogs and chinchillas, are slaughtered each year for fashion. More than a third of these animals are bred and killed in farms around Europe. Although fur coats are going out of fashion in Europe, real fur trim is increasingly being used for hooded jackets, hat pompoms, gloves, shoes and other clothing and accessories. It’s estimated that as many as half of all animals raised for their fur are killed for fur trim.

Public discontent with the cruel practices in fur farms has prompted the governments of 15 European countries to impose a ban on farms where animals are kept only for their fur. The spread of COVID-19 and the discovered link between the virus and mink have also led to bans in countries where the industry is prevalent. Just last week the Senate in France approved a full ban on keeping wild animals in fur farms.

Scientists, industry leaders and other specialists discussed why an Action Plan for the active phase-out of the use of animals in experiments is needed and provided examples of existing tools and procedures, which could be soon implemented by the European Commission

Humane Society International / Europe


BRUSSELS— The Intergroup on the Welfare and Conservation of Animals organised an extraordinary meeting on Accelerating the transition to animal-free innovation, in partnership with Eurogroup for Animals and Humane Society International/Europe.

This special session featured a roundtable panel debate on the opportunities opened up by the European Parliament’s recently adopted resolution on an action plan to transition to animal-free innovation “with the aim of driving the active phase-out by reducing, refining and replacing procedures on live animals for scientific and regulatory purposes.”

The idea of phasing out animals used in laboratories is not new and was mentioned in Directive 2010/63 on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes. With that resolution in September, though, the EP recognised that an active, coordinated approach for reduction and, ultimately, the full replacement of animals has not been achieved. By requiring an EU-wide action plan with an ambitious timetable and list of milestones, the EP is aiming to actively drive the phase-out of animals used for all scientific purposes.

Kirsty Reid, Director of Science Policy at the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations, stressed the need for stronger collaboration and mentioned the existing good collaboration between industry and civil society, like the partnership with Humane Society International on the deletion of an obsolete animal-based safety test for some pharmaceutical products. She underscored her belief that government agencies and regulators must place more trust into innovative methods.    

One of the core ideas of the resolution is to promote new technologies capable of replacing animal models by providing data that are more relevant to human biology than animals. One of these technologies is organs-on-chips.

Thibault Honegger, CEO of The Neuro Engineering Technologies Research Institute, explained why organs-on-chips are so often described as a game-changing technology capable of better mimicking aspects of human biology than animals or simpler in vitro models. Honegger provided examples of organs-on-chips being used right now, like the Parkinson’s chip device and the one used to develop an anti-pain treatment, which are already having a direct impact on human health, in a way that could not have been achieved using animals. From his point of view, what the EC needs to include in the Action Plan is a global approach covering the entire production chain, and the enhancement of biobanks and cells databases, along with a dedicated stakeholders’ task force as in the US.

Another point underlined by the EP resolution centers on education in non-animal methods. There is little point in having the most advanced technologies in the world if very few people know how to use them. Prof. Beatriz Silva Lima, Dean of the Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Lisbon, suggested that the EU, in order to foster the knowledge and use of new advanced non-animal methods in academic research, should make these methods more available to researchers because at the moment animal testing is still cheaper. So, even if there are different new advanced technologies (e.g. organoids and organs on chips), they are sometimes not affordable. Prof. Silva Lima also highlighted the need to facilitate access to human tissues and cells to foster the speedier development of human-focused models.  

Prof. Ingrid Visseren-Hamakers from the Radboud University shared her view that the European Commission, in order to ensure that this plan delivers significant reductions of animal use, improves health research and produces economic benefits, must link the Action Plan to other policy areas. Animal-free science is part of a larger set of trends including a shift in attitudes towards nonhuman animals. The EU Green Deal asks that we protect human health and the environment and to be able to do that we need new science, human-relevant science and transformative change. If we transform our society, for example using less chemicals and pesticides, changing our diets and moving towards a preventive curative system, we would need less animal testing and could proceed with the implementation of laws and policy that support a shift to non-animal methodologies.

Anja Hazekamp, President of the Intergroup, concluded by informing the audience that the Intergroup will now request a meeting with the European Commission to share the conclusions of the event and discuss views on the Parliament’s call for an Action Plan. 



Agenda Accelerating the transition to animal-free innovation: Measures for an action plan to phase-out experiments on animals 

Israeli scientists recently developed a cancer drug without any animal tests by using chips with human kidney, liver and heart cells.  

‘Organs-on-chips’ represent a new market sector growing quickly at a rate of 28% per year, which means that the market size will be multiplied by 7 by 2030 according to projections.  


Agnese Marcon, Communications Manager, Eurogroup for Animals 

+32 (0) 456 078 038 

Yavor Gechev, Communications Director, Humane Society International/Europe 

+359 (0) 88 946 8098 

Humane Society International / Europe

dpa picture/Alamy

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.


Media Contacts:

  • Dr Joanna Swabe, senior director of public affairs at Humane Society International/Europe:
  • Yavor Gechev, communications director at Humane Society International/Europe:

Humane Society International / Europe


BRUSSELS—Last night the European Parliament adopted the “Farm to Fork Strategy” report during its Plenary session in Strasbourg. While the report could have been considerably stronger, it still made some valuable and progressive demands for advancing animal welfare, as well as addressing crucial environmental issues, such as tackling the density of EU farm animal populations and greenhouse gas emissions relating to imported animal feed and food. HSI/Europe warmly welcomes the Parliament’s backing for the revision of the existing EU animal welfare legislation and method of production labelling for animal products.

Dr Joanna Swabe, senior director of public affairs for Humane Society International/Europe said:

“Crucially, MEPs explicitly reiterated their support for an end for caged confinement of farm animals by 2027. When the Commission delivers its legislative proposals in 2023, we’ll certainly be reminding them that backing out on this is not what the 1.4 million EU citizens who signed the End the Cage Age European Citizens Initiative will accept.”

With regard to industrial animal production systems, the “Farm to Fork” report underlines that caged confinement increases animals’ susceptibility to infectious diseases and creates the conditions for the emergence and spread of zoonotic diseases. Leaked documents suggest that this was an inconvenient truth for the EU farm lobby, which had done their utmost to try to eliminate such language from the report.

HSI/Europe recognises that the Parliament’s “Farm to Fork” report is largely the outcome of negotiations and compromises between political groups with diametrically opposed positions on many of the issues covered by it and expressed its overall satisfaction with the outcome of the vote.

“Amongst other things, the adopted report acknowledges that our current food system, including animal and crop production, must be brought within planetary boundaries. It calls for an accelerated transformation away from intensive animal agricultural practices and emphasises that a population-wide shift in consumption patterns is needed to increase the consumption of plant-based foods and address the overconsumption of meat and ultra-processed products,” added Dr Swabe.

The current European food production system, which heavily features meat and dairy products, is largely unsustainable and is inextricably linked to climate change, biodiversity decline, environmental degradation and public health crises. In recognition of this, the European Commission last year delivered its ambitious “A Farm to Fork Strategy for a fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly food system.” The report on the strategy was adopted by the Committees on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety and on Agriculture and Rural Development last month. After the plenary vote from yesterday, the ball is now back in the court of the European Commission and Member States to ensure that the Parliament’s recommendations are translated into concrete policy action.

Additional information

Key animal protection and climate change language from the adopted report includes:

  • Calls for the Commission to deliver a legislative proposal to phase out the use of cages in EU animal farming, possibly by 2027. This reiterates the Parliament’s position expressed in its Resolution of 10th June 2021 on the European Citizens Initiative to End the Cage Age.
  • A demand for the Commission and Member States to implement and enforce relevant EU legislation, including the slaughter and animal transport legislation, underscoring the importance of starting infringement procedures against systemically non-compliant Member States and the need to close legislative gaps setting higher standards in legislation for animal welfare.
  • Stresses that it is essential for the EU to take into account third country compliance with animal welfare standards, particularly concerning imported products.
  • Underlines that our current animal production systems, which frequently involve the confinement of animals of a similar genotype in close proximity to one another, can increase their susceptibility to infectious disease, creating conditions for the emergence and spread of zoonotic diseases and calls for an accelerated transition away from these agricultural practices.
  • Recognises that the food system, including animal and crop production, must be brought within planetary boundaries, ensuring ambitious reductions in all greenhouse gas emissions by addressing livestock densities in the EU and embedded land use emissions from imported feed and food.
  • Stresses that agriculture and farming practices with significant negative impacts on climate, biodiversity, soil, water, air and on animal welfare should not receive EU climate funding, nor be incentivised or rewarded.
  • Underlines the need for method of production labelling on animal products (including processed ones) to be established, including animal welfare indicators, the place of birth, rearing and slaughter of the animal, to increase transparency and help consumer choice.
  • Highlights that a population-wide shift in consumption patterns is needed towards more healthy foods, diets and lifestyles, including increased consumption of sustainably and regionally produced plants and more plant-based foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and legumes, and to address the overconsumption of meat and ultra-processed products, which will also benefit the environment and animal welfare.
  • Considers that the further development and sustainable innovation in the field of plant protein production and alternative sources of protein in the EU is a way of effectively addressing many of the environmental and climate challenges, as well as preventing deforestation, biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation in countries outside the EU.
  • Stresses that production and market uptake of plant-based proteins should be better supported and calls for the Commission to deliver a proposal for harmonised requirements with regard to the labelling for vegetarian and fully plant-based foods.
  • Supports giving Member States more flexibility to differentiate in the VAT rates on food with different health and environmental impacts, enabling a zero VAT tax for fruits and vegetables, and a higher VAT rate on unhealthy food and food with a high environmental footprint.


Media Contacts:

  • Dr Joanna Swabe, senior director of public affairs at Humane Society International/Europe:; +31651317004
  • Yavor Gechev, communications director at Humane Society International/Europe:; +359889468098

World leaders urged to end fur trade ticking time bomb

Humane Society International / Europe

G20 fur signatures handin
Martina Pluda/HSI

ROME—Ahead of the G20 meeting this month in Rome, a petition of almost 900,000 signatures gathered by the Fur Free Alliance urging world leaders to permanently end fur farming to prevent continued outbreaks of SARS-CoV-2 as well as protect against future zoonotic pandemics has been submitted. G20 leaders have also received a letter from the global coalition of animal NGOs, urging action. The petition and letters come in the wake of 446 outbreaks of SARS-CoV-2 on mink fur farms in the Netherlands, Denmark, Poland, Lithuania, Greece, Spain, Sweden, France, Italy, Latvia, the United States and Canada, with the most recent outbreak in Spain this week.

A growing number of experts express grave concerns about the human health risks of the fur trade. In its report last November, the European Centre for Disease Control warned that the evolution of the virus in mink could undermine the effectiveness of vaccines in humans, and that “continued transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in mink farms may eventually give rise to other variants of concern.” In June this year, 67 virologists, epidemiologists, infectious disease specialists, veterinarians and animal behaviourists from across the globe called for action to end fur farming, and the World Organisation for Animal Health’s ad hoc Group on COVID-19 and Safe Trade in Animals and Animal Products has concluded that raw mink skins cannot be considered a safe commodity for international trade.

Jeffrey Flocken, president of Humane Society International, says: “Governments cannot respond to the COVID-19 crisis on mink fur farms simply by monitoring outbreaks and allowing fur farmers to continue business as usual. The appalling conditions on fur farms make them a ticking time bomb for pandemic disease risk. Disease transmission experts warn that it is a matter of when, and not if, another deadly virus hits if we continue to keep animals in these unnatural and horrific conditions. Now, hundreds of thousands of global citizens are also urging G20 leaders to publicly acknowledge that fur farming must end.”

Fourteen countries including the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Hungary and Lithuania have already acted to ban fur farming, and the practice is currently suspended in Denmark, Italy and Sweden. However, many countries across Europe, China, Russia and North America continue to intensively rear tens of millions of fox, mink and raccoon dogs, all of which are species susceptible to coronaviruses. For the sake of fur fashion, these animals spend their entire lives confined to tiny, barren, wire cages that not only cause immense suffering, but also present a serious public-health risk. The cramped conditions, poor hygiene, stress, injuries, disease, minimal veterinary care and lack of genetic diversity all mean that fur farms create ideal conditions for viruses to be transmitted and to mutate, creating new strains.

Rare but concerning cases of animal-to-human disease transmission have been documented. Research in the Netherlands using whole genome sequencing revealed that at least 66 people working on mink fur farms became infected with SARS-CoV-2, and the preliminary report of an outbreak of SARS- CoV-2 in mink and mink farmers in Denmark, published in February 2021, researchers concluded that 19% of people identified as being connected to mink farms became infected, with approximately 4,000 human cases estimated to be infected with a mink variant.

Download Photos/Video of Undercover Investigation at a Chinese Fur Farm

Download Photos/Video of Undercover Investigation at a Finnish Fur Farm


  • Outbreaks of COVID-19 have been documented on 446 mink fur farms in 12 different countries in Europe and North America since April 2020, including Canada (three farms), Denmark (290 farms), France (one farm), Greece (25 farms), Italy (two farms), Latvia (one farm), Lithuania (four farms), Netherlands (69 farms), Poland (three farm), Spain (17 farms), Sweden (14 farms) and the United States (17 farms).
  • More than 100 million animals are killed for their fur every year worldwide, on fur farms and trapped in the wild—that’s equivalent to three animals dying every second, just for their fur.
  • Fur farming has been banned and/or is in the process of being phased-out in Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Northern Macedonia, Norway, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and the United Kingdom. France, the Republic of Ireland, Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro, Spain and Ukraine are also considering bans on fur farming.
  • Earlier this year Israel became the first country in the world to ban the sale of fur. In the United States, California became the first US state to ban fur sales in 2019 following similar bans in cities including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Berkeley and West Hollywood. The towns of Weston and Wellesley in Massachusetts and the city of Ann Arbor in Michigan have also recently banned fur sales, and more US cities and states are looking to follow suit.

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Media contact: Wendy Higgins:

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