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Animal welfare

Awareness of animal welfare issues has been growing in recent years. Under the Lisbon Treaty of 2009, which acknowledges that animals have feelings, the EU and its members must take animal welfare into account in all agricultural, fisheries, transport and research policy.

Organic principles and regulations are also designed to ensure that animals are treated humanely. There is a ban on inflicting any avoidable pain or suffering. Requirements include the following.

Breeds

To ensure that animals are healthy, EU rules require the use of breeds that are robust, able to adapt to local conditions and disease-resistant. This is why indigenous breeds and strains suited to specific environments are preferred.

Feed

The feed given to livestock should enhance their health and wellbeing. Organic farmers use organic fodder that is good not only for growth and output, but also for health and welfare.

Feed must not contain any substances that artificially promote growth, synthetic amino acids or genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Living conditions

There are strict rules on the way in which animals are housed. The number of animals kept in one space must be appropriate to guarantee their comfort. Moreover, they must have access to natural air and light, and must be able to go outdoors.

Tethering animals is not allowed unless it is essential for safety, welfare or veterinary reasons, and then only in individual cases.

Health and disease prevention

Keeping animals healthy and contented is one of the key principles of organic farming. This entails taking account of different species' particular needs.

Organic farming strengthens animals' natural defences, as it provides them with suitable high-quality feed, regular exercise and free-range access to appropriate pasture.

Freedom from pain

Organic farming ensures that any suffering is kept to a minimum throughout the animal's life.

When animals are transported, their welfare must be guaranteed and travel times must be kept as short as possible. The use of any type of electrical stimulation or allopathic tranquillisers before or during loading and unloading is strictly forbidden.

Slaughter methods are designed to be as quick and painless as possible.