While Eurogroup for Animals today welcomes the inclusion of animal welfare in the Common Agricultural Policy’s ‘eco-scheme’ incentive programme, disappointment persists over missed opportunities to fundamentally reform the one piece of legislation which most affects the lives of the seven billion farm animals raised and slaughtered each year in the EU.
Animal welfare was first brought into the CAP in 2003, but spending on it has been a marginal fixture ever since. The AGRI Committee’s votes yesterday and today seem to be a continuation of this approach, as MEPs only voted for two provisions that are beneficial for animals. Yesterday saw the passing of an amendment enabling good animal welfare practises in the food chain; today’s positive outcome was that the eco-schemes incentive programme will now encourage farmers who want to receive CAP subsidies to go beyond legal standards when it comes to the treatment of animals on their farms.
“These are still very small steps towards meeting the objective to bring EU agriculture in line with societal demand in regard to the CAP’s consideration for animals,” said Reineke Hameleers, Director at Eurogroup for Animals. “In paying European farmers in exchange for producing food in a certain way, the CAP is the determining factor when it comes to the number of animals raised for food in the EU and the ways in which they are treated. As such, it needs a much stronger focus on animal welfare than it already has.”
The AGRI Committee has still not addressed the fact that agricultural subsidies and market support programmes in the CAP encourage intensive farming production across Europe. Italian pork producers, for instance, benefit from CAP promotional measures despite repeatedly violating minimal EU animal welfare standards.
For example, AGRI chose to ignore the animal welfare recommendations of the ENVI Committee in their February report, such as the inclusion of all the poultry directives and the regulation on slaughter for animals killed on farms into the mechanism of “conditionality”, which requires that beneficiaries of agricultural subsidies submit to inspections to show they comply with a set of EU regulations on animal welfare.
Not only that, but on Monday the AGRI committee passed an amendment that seeks to stop producers of plant-based meat and dairy alternatives from naming their products “steak,” “sausage,” “butter” or “burger”, despite opposition via a joint letter from NGOs. As the AGRI is the most influential of the two committees that share competence to vote on the CAP, all this shows a lack of leadership in addressing those issues that matter most to citizens today.
The ENVI Committee’s February report was a stronger call for animal welfare-related improvements to the CAP, with its proposal to limit subsidies that go to industrial farm animal production, as well as to include objectives to reduce stocking densities on farms and to decrease the number of violations by subsidy beneficiaries.
Through its VoteforAnimals2019 election campaign, which asks MEPs to pledge their support for animal welfare – including ensuring that farm animal welfare will be made a priority in the implementation of the CAP – Eurogroup for Animals has been calling for people to vote only for those candidates who will act responsibly for the future of our planet and all its inhabitants. We will now be watching closely to see if the new Parliament recognises the importance of animal welfare and ensures that the positive elements from both reports are included in the final text when taking the CAP reform to its next stages.
In fact, if this happens, it will be the first time the CAP comes anywhere near complying with the EU’s mandate to “pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals [in the formulation] of the Union’s agriculture [policy]”.
Today’s concessions by the AGRI Committee are a very, very long time overdue – but it remains to be seen if they will actually materialise in the final vote, and if the new CAP will be the sea-change for animals that advocates have been calling for.
Alice Di Concetto, Programme Officer – Farm Animals
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