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.