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European Commission seeks quality upgrade of animal welfare
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A four-year strategy (2012-2015) proposing further improvements for the welfare of animals in the European Union has been adopted by the European Commission.

The strategy analyses the past whilst shaping the future of animal welfare in the EU and sets down foreseen actions that will come gradually into effect from 2012 – 2015 (see annex).  It is based on two complimentary approaches: it embraces a holistic approach to animal welfare by considering the establishment of a new EU legislative framework for animal welfare, whilst also seeking to reinforce existing EU actions in certain areas.

"The recent coming into force of the "laying hens" legislation has shown that problems persist in animal welfare in several member states. Some efforts are being made, but many issues need to be tackled in a different way in order to achieve more sustainable results”, EU Health and Consumer Policy Commissioner John Dalli said.

He added: “The new strategy will permit appropriate flexibility allowing operators to attain the necessary welfare standards by different routes. Optimising policy coherence and market transparency in a comprehensive animal welfare legislative framework will minimise real or perceived tensions between welfare and economics. Animal welfare measures need to be cost-effective. The proposed dedication of resources to education and training is expected to be highly cost-effective, economically and in welfare terms."

    European Commission seeks quality upgrade of animal welfare

    The paper outlines a two-pronged approach:

    a proposal for a comprehensive animal welfare law and reinforcement of current actions. The legislation to be proposed is expected to promote an innovative approach focusing on actual welfare outcomes instead of mechanistic inputs, and to increase the focus on the education and professional standards of all parties concerned.

    the second element proposes a reinforcement and optimisation of current Commission actions: enhancing tools to strengthen member state compliance with the legal requirements; boosting the already existing international co-operation on animal welfare issues; providing consumers with better information, and performing studies where animal welfare appears to encounter the most problems. 

    What changes compared to the existing strategy (2006-2010)?

    There are several common elements. A number of previous initiatives need to be reinforced so the Commission will:
    support member states and take action to improve compliance with animal welfare rules;
    support international cooperation;
    provide consumers and the public with appropriate information;
    optimise coordination with the Common Agriculture Policy;
    investigate the welfare of certain species like farmed fish, in line with the initiatives laid down in the Commission Aquaculture Strategy and by exploring the possibilities offered in the context of the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy.

    Are any measures against third countries not complying with the rules foreseen?

    The competitiveness of EU producers is one of the key objectives of the Commission's policy on animal welfare. There is no point in improving EU welfare standards if it has the effect of increasing imports from third countries with lower standards.

    For this reason, the strategy will emphasize the importance of developing within the EU a flexible system of rules. Simultaneously, EU values towards animals will be promoted abroad.  Also, even more is to be done on the international level. Since 2000, the EU has invested increasing resources to develop international standards on animal welfare and supported the relevant work of the World Animal Health Organisation (OIE). 

    Who will benefit?

    All of us.  As members of the public and consumers we care about animals and want them to be well treated. Consumer surveys indicate that EU consumers are concerned about animal welfare when they buy food. The Animal Welfare Strategy will contribute to the improvement information to consumers, retailers, food services and food processors on animal welfare through the development a transparent tool for claims on animal welfare certification schemes.

    Commercial sectors dealing with animals, in particular farmers, will also benefit because the strategy will provide them with tools to better innovate and promote their actions on animal welfare.

    Currently, there are few certification schemes specifically addressing animal welfare issues (Eurobarometer 229 survey ). The strategy suggests considering the development of a tool for increasing transparency and adequacy of information to consumers for their purchase choice.

    Who is responsible for what?

    The Commission will develop the actions foreseen in the strategy in the forthcoming years. However, a number of actions will need the involvements of stakeholders, member states and other EU institutions like the European Parliament.

    What happens next?

    The communication will now be submitted to the European Parliament, the Council and the European Economic and Social Committee.

    Also, from 29 February – 1 March 2012, the Commission and the EU Danish Presidency will host an international conference in Brussels gathering together national and international representatives, vets, farmers, businesses academics, scientists and NGOs. The event will focus on opportunities of the market-driven approach, implementation of current animal welfare legislation and latest developments in animal welfare research and sciences.


    The Commission first adopted an Animal Welfare Strategy in 2006. The Community Action Plan on the Protection and Welfare of Animals 2006-2010, grouped the various aspects of EU policy on animal welfare governing the keeping of billions of animals for economic purposes.

    The new strategy builds on the old one and, in particular, on lessons learned during the five-year implementation period of the first Action Plan. The farming sector is the largest, as far as use of animals is concerned. In farms across the EU, there are about two billion birds (chickens for meat production, laying hens, turkeys, ducks and geese) and three hundred million mammals (cows, pigs, sheep, etc.). The annual value of livestock farming in the EU is estimated at approximately 150 billion euros.

    The Union's contribution to support animal welfare is estimated at 70 million euros a year, either directed to farmers as animal welfare payments under rural development programmes or dedicated to other activities related to animal welfare, such as research, economic studies, communication, training and education etc.


    Actions foreseen


    Series of enforcement actions on the protection of laying hens (Directive 1999/74/EC)


    Implementing plan and enforcement actions on the grouping of sows (Directive 2008/120/EC)


    Implementing plan for the slaughter regulation (Council Regulation (EC) N° 1099/2009)


    EU implementing rules or guidelines on the protection of animals during transport


    Report the European Parliament and the Council on the impact of genetic selection on the welfare of chickens bred and kept for meat production*


    Report to the European Parliament and the Council on the application of the Regulation (EC) No 1523/2007 banning the placing on the market of cat and dog fur*


    Study on the welfare of farmed fish at the time of killing


    Report to the European Parliament and the Council on the various stunning methods for poultry *


    Report to the Council on the implementation of Directive 98/58/EC*


    EU guidelines on the protection of pigs


    Study on animal welfare education and on information activities directed at the general public and consumers


    Study on the opportunity to provide consumers with the relevant information on the stunning of animals*


    Possible legislative proposal for a simplified EU legislative framework for animal welfare


    Report on the impact of animal welfare international activities on the competitiveness of European livestock producers in a globalised world


    Report to the European Parliament and the Council on system restraining bovine animals by inversion or any unnatural position *


    Study on the welfare of dogs and cats involved in commercial practices


    EU guidelines or implementing rules on the protection of animals at the time of killing


    Report to the European Parliament and the Council on the possibility of introducing certain requirements regarding the protection of fish at the time of killing*


    Report to the European Parliament and the Council on the application of Directive 2007/43/EC and its influence on the welfare of chickens bred and kept for meat production*


    Study on the welfare of farmed fish during transport


    *            Obligations deriving from EU legislation


    For more information, please contact the London press office on 020 7973 1971.
    Please note: all amounts expressed in sterling are for information purposes only.

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    Last update: 26/01/2012  |Top