Check Against Delivery 

Ladies and gentlemen,

Today, our discussions focused mostly on animal welfare – an area which for us is a clear priority to bring change.

We had our first discussion with Ministers on the Commission’s response to the Citizens’ Initiative on Animal Welfare “End the Cage Age” and the announcements we made on animal welfare just two weeks ago.

I want to start from the fact that the follow-up to the Citizens Initiative that we will propose is a landmark moment for the European Union.

We have heard the call from 1.4 million citizens and we committed to act on it.

The success of this Initiative is a concrete illustration that we – the EU institutions – can respond to direct calls from citizens, answer society’s demands and deliver with targeted proposals.

I explained to ministers that we are at the beginning of a process but with a clear objective: the phasing out of cages for all the animals mentioned in the ECI, and not just the ones covered by the current legislation.

Therefore, a cage-free environment for millions of animals is the end-goal of a journey that began this summer.

Our work has already started, with an ongoing review of the Animal Welfare legislation.

Now is the time to listen to the key stakeholders in this process, and we will consult extensively in the coming months as we launch the legislative work in earnest.

I have called for the wide support of Member States and their involvement in this process.

This is crucial since our proposal, scheduled for the end of 2023, will be guided by independent scientific research and an analysis of the social and economic impact to determine a reasonable transition period.

I have also made very clear to Ministers that farmers will be supported to ease the transition, and that they may already benefit from the financial schemes available through the CAP.

Last but not least we will also reflect on what measures may be adopted for imported food. This is a key issue for Member States and stakeholders, and we will examine all options to ensure we have a fair and equitable approach for our farmers.

I remind us that the EU is already a global leader in the area of Animal welfare and that we will keep driving the sustainability agenda forward with 2027 being the target date for the entry into force of what will be a landmark legislation.

Beyond cages, today I also had the opportunity to address two other animal welfare issues with Ministers.

First, on the welfare of turkeys, which is currently covered by the Directive on the protection of animals kept for farming purposes, and is part of the legislation we will revise in 2023.

As part of the revision, we will propose empowerments allowing specific welfare requirements to be introduced for certain species, including turkeys, on the basis of up-to-date scientific advice from EFSA that we will be requesting.

We also discussed the steps we are taking to end the killing of day-old male chicks.

This is an issue of serious ethical concern for myself and for many European citizens. It reflects a paradox in our society, which, for the sake of competitiveness and efficiency, leads to the killing of fifty percent of the chicks hatched for the production of eggs.

I am encouraged that several Member States have already decided to phase out the killing of day-old chicks.

At EU level and in some Member States, we have also invested in various innovative projects to find more ethical and sustainable production systems, in line with the Farm to Fork Strategy.

We will use the forthcoming revision of the animal welfare legislation to look into this sensitive issue very carefully to reach the best possible way forward.  

We have a range of challenging issues on front of us, which we will be able to address effectively through close coordination.

The Farm to Fork agenda is and will continue to be our compass to transform our food systems towards a more sustainable future, and one which is more respectful to nature and animals.

Finally, we also discussed the developments regarding the African swine fever, where we all collectively need to take strong measures to contain it as we are entering the summer peak season. As for all viruses, there are no borders and collective action and coordination between Member States, sectors and disciplines can contain the disease.

We stand ready to offer financial and technical support to Member States in tackling African swine fever whenever and wherever required.