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More protection for animals - 20/01/2012

A farmer carrying calf next to a cow in field © EU

New plan aims to address gaps in EU’s animal welfare legislation, providing better protection for animals and empowering consumers to shop wisely.

The EU’s rules on the humane treatment of animals are not working the way they should.

A piecemeal approach, gaps in the law, and a lack of enforcement in some countries means not all animals are treated according to the EU’s standards. And farmers in countries that do enforce the rules are left at a competitive disadvantage.

The Commission plans to address these problems through a new animal welfare strategy . Farmers will get more support to meet the welfare standards required by EU law. Consumers will also benefit from increased transparency and better information on animal welfare.

Simpler, comprehensive rules

As part of the strategy, the Commission is considering proposing a more comprehensive animal welfare law to fill the remaining gaps in the current legislation. It would also aim to:

  • give consumers more information to help them understand what animal-welfare claims made on product labels really mean
  • make sure the rules really do benefit animals
  • improve training for people handling animals

Improvements over 4-year period

The strategy also sets out a series of measures to be introduced gradually over the next four years.

For example, current laws will be reinforced to improve compliance. Better information on the EU’s high animal welfare standards will be made available.

Plans for regulating animal slaughter are expected this year, along with rules or guidelines on transporting animals. Action will also be taken to improve sow welfare this year, with guidelines on pigs generally in the pipeline for next year. The proposal on a general animal welfare bill will be considered in 2014.

Staying competitive

To ensure European farmers remain competitive with foreign imports, EU values on animal welfare will be promoted abroad and more will be done to develop international standards.

Making better use of research

A network of reference centres will be established in the EU to help improve animal welfare research and make the results available to farmers.

More on animal health & welfare

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