BRUSSELS—After months of waiting for the European Commission to honour its European Green Deal commitment to deliver a package of legislative proposals to upgrade the EU’s animal welfare legislation, Executive Vice President Maroš Šefčovič finally broke the EU executive body’s silence on this issue during the Parliamentary hearing for his appointment as the new Green Deal czar.
In response to probing questions on animal welfare from several Members of the European Parliament from across the political spectrum, Šefčovič dashed EU citizens’ hopes of the Von der Leyen Commission adopting legislative proposals to end the caged confinement of farm animals in the EU this year. While claiming to be committed to the animal welfare file, he hid behind its ‘complexity’ as an excuse for failure for its delivery. Šefčovič’s only olive branch to animal advocates was a promise to come up with a proposal on live animal transport by December 2023.
Dr Joanna Swabe, senior director of public affairs for Humane Society International/Europe, issued the following statement in response to Šefčovič’s comments:
“We were promised action to end cruel caged confinement, but turns out to have all been hot air. Despite being grilled by several MEPs, during his hearing Commissioner Šefčovič largely skirted around the issue of animal welfare and failed to provide any clear timeline with respect to when, or even if, the European Commission would deliver its promised ban on caged farming. The announced legislative proposal on animal transport is good news, but alone, it falls short of the commitments made in the Farm to Fork Strategy and the Commission’s promise to the 1.4 million European citizens backing the ‘End the Cage Age’ European Citizen’s Initiative.
The science is clear, it is time to stop confining millions of sentient animals in cages and crates so small they cannot turn around or take more than a single step forward. A slew of scientific opinions delivered by EFSA, the European Union’s science advisory agency focused on food chain risks, confirm that the current animal welfare legislation needs to be brought in line with new scientific understanding on animal welfare. This legislation has already been deemed no longer fit for purpose under the Commission’s own regulatory fitness and performance programme that aims to ensure that EU laws deliver on their objectives. Moreover, the Regulatory Scrutiny Board has issued a positive opinion about the draft impact assessment accompanying the legislative proposals, which have already been drafted by Commission staff. The announced additional discussion on animal welfare in the context of the strategic dialogue with farmers is a poor attempt to dissolve concerns after recent reports that the EU could drop its plan to get farmed animals out of cages. The Commission already has a Platform on Animal Welfare that involves all relevant stakeholders. Let us not forget that ahead of the 2024 EU elections, it would be an affront to EU citizens and participatory democracy if the Commission failed to deliver on both its ECI and Green Deal promises to raise animal welfare standards. Humane Society International, allied groups and EU citizens will not give up. We will be pushing Šefčovič and his colleagues to deliver all the legislative proposals before the end of their mandate”.
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